Cracking the ways to elevate your deviled eggs to the next level

Deviled eggs by Debbie Moose
Deviled eggs by Debbie Moose

It’s hard to make a bad deviled egg.

But it’s a whole other thing to make a great deviled egg, one to which other deviled eggs can merely aspire, one that is the stuff of Easter dinner legends and object of reverence when it appears at the family reunion.

Would you like to leave a trail of ooohs behind you as you place your tray of deviled eggs on the mealtime spread? Here’s how.

Great deviled eggs start with properly cooked eggs. Many people overcook them, which results in the dreaded dry, greenish yolk that doesn’t combine well with the other filling ingredients. And the white will be rubbery instead of tender. Like the man in pairs figure skating, the white’s sole job is to support the yolk and its fillings in a sparkly manner, which it can’t do when it’s more like a golf ball.

Ways to hard-cook eggs abound, including steaming them in the Instant Pot, but the easiest method requires only a saucepan and timer: Put the eggs in the saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then immediately put a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, drain and rinse the eggs under cold running water, or drop them into a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking process.

Getting the peel off is next, and there are as many theories about the easiest way to do that as there are about what’s on the other side of a black hole. Let’s start with egg anatomy. An egg shrinks as it gets older, leaving an air pocket between it and the shell. The air pocket, particularly at the large end, is your fingerhold to getting the shell off. Use it.

By the way, this scientific fact is why the shell of a just-dropped-from-the-hen egg is virtually laminated on. You won’t get that shell off without leaving the egg looking like the surface of the moon. Set fresh eggs in the refrigerator for a week or so and they should work fine.

And you’re about to say, “We have all those Easter eggs we hid for the kids.” Don’t even consider deviling them and feeding them to people you like. Food safety experts universally advise not to, because the eggs have been under bushes in the spring warmth for way too long, and being the person who brought food poisoning to the family reunion is not how you want to be remembered.

For the filling, anyone can mash in mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish, and toss on paprika that’s been in the pantry since the Clinton administration. But those deviled eggs will never vanish from the holiday spread faster than your perfectionist cousin’s. To quote from “Steel Magnolias,” what separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize, so raise your deviled eggs to the next level.

The term deviled eggs originally meant ones with spicy fillings (others were called stuffed eggs), so consider adding hot sauce or curry powder, and even using pickled jalapenos. And ditch that ancient paprika for smoked paprika.

For mild-yet-flavorful deviled eggs, fresh herbs or lemon pepper add a spring touch. And consider softened butter, sour cream or cream cheese along with or instead of the traditional mayo. Smoked trout or salmon, crab, even caviar, brings a punch to fillings, too. And let us not forget bacon.

A proper setting for your beauties is important. A deviled egg plate is the perfect vehicle, of course, which shows off the eggs like gems in a bracelet. But if you are deprived of one, you can make do. Place curly parsley on a regular plate and nestle the eggs in it to keep them from rolling around, or line them up in a narrow olive or bread tray.

From good to great – take your deviled eggs there.

The Devil Made Me Do It

Be sure to use a fruity habanero hot sauce, not a vinegar-based sauce, in these deviled eggs. Smoked paprika makes a great topping.

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/4 teaspoons Caribbean-style habanero hot sauce, plus more for garnish, if desired

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard. Stir in the hot sauce, curry powder and garlic powder. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

Fill the whites evenly with the mixture. If you really like it hot, garnish each egg half with a dab more hot sauce.

Yield: Makes 12

From “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” by Debbie Moose

Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs

You could purchase already made pimento cheese, but using the ingredients instead gives a better flavor and texture.

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/4 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped pimentos, drained

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion

1/2 teaspoon grated garlic

Salt and black pepper to taste

Chopped pimentos for garnish

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise, mustard, onion and garlic. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

Fill the whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with chopped pimentos.

Yield: Makes 12

From “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” by Debbie Moose