If you write a cookbook about deviled eggs, like I did, the world will hop to your door every Easter season. Whether it’s due to the rebirth symbolism or just because they’re so fresh and good, this is the time of year that cooks’ thoughts turn to deviled eggs.
I’ve found that for something so simple and good, people have a lot of questions about deviled eggs. Here are some that I’ve actually been asked, and the answers may help you with your Easter deviled eggs.
1. How do I cook the eggs?
The term “hard-boiled” should refer to film noir detectives, not eggs. The correct way to think about preparing an egg for deviling is “hard-cooked.” Boil the heck out of an egg and you’ll end up with a tough, rubbery white and a dry, greenish yolk that stays lumpy when blending it with other ingredients. That green tint is a sure sign of overcooking.
The cooking method from the American Egg Board always works. Place large eggs in a pan in one layer (don’t stack them up) and cover them with cold water. There should be about an inch of water over the top of the eggs. Place the pan on high heat until the water comes to a solid boil. Then cover the pan and remove it from the heat (turn off a gas stove, or slide the pan off the burner of an electric range). Set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, drain the eggs and get them cool as fast as possible to stop the cooking process. Either rinse them under cold running water or drop them into a bowl of ice water.
2. How do I get the #%$& shells off?
Ah, yes, peeling eggs – an activity that ranks in popularity with scraping paint. There are products that claim to make peeling easier and quicker, but in my experience they do nothing but peel money from my wallet.
Some older cooks say that piercing the eggshells with a needle before cooking will make the shells come off easier. Not only is that not true, food safety folks say that it can introduce bacteria into the egg. So don’t do it.
The main factor that determines ease of peeling has absolutely nothing to do with how you cooked the eggs or what incantation you said over them. It’s basic egg anatomy.
As eggs get older, the egg shrinks slightly and an air pocket forms between the egg and the shell. This air pocket – largest at the big end of the egg – enables you to get a finger-hold and pull off the shell.
If you’ve just pulled the eggs from beneath your backyard chickens, the shells will be stuck on like epoxy because the eggs are too fresh. Place those eggs in the refrigerator for a week or two before hard-cooking them for deviled eggs, to let them form air pockets, or purchase some eggs. Most supermarket eggs are sufficiently aged to have air pockets.
I always cook an extra egg or two in case I encounter one that just will not let go of the shell. The yolk can still go in the filling.
By the way, if you’re obsessed about yolks being centered in the eggs, turn the carton on its side in the refrigerator overnight. Or lighten up.
3. Can I use the eggs the Easter Bunny left?
Hard-cooked eggs, sealed in a plastic bag, will keep for five days in the refrigerator. Note that I said “refrigerator.” Not in your kids’ Easter baskets in the living room and not lurking around Grandma’s backyard on a warm Easter Sunday.
Food safety experts agree that you should leave the dyed eggs for hunting and cook a fresh batch for deviling. “But it’s so wasteful,” you say. Would you rather waste an afternoon in the emergency room with food poisoning?
4. Long-ways or short-ways?
A shocking question the first time I received it. I’d never considered that there was a way to slice eggs other than how I’d been raised to do it: lengthwise. I still think it’s the best. It provides more stability. Cut the eggs short-ways, through the center, and you have to slice a tiny bit off the bottoms of each white to make the halves stand up after filling, an additional step between you and delicious deviled eggs.
For serving, if you don’t have a deviled egg plate, there are other options. Long, narrow olive dishes are good, or place fresh parsley on a regular plate and nestle the deviled eggs into it.
5. Can I make a vegan deviled egg?
I’ve been asked this question only once, and I laughed. Then I noticed that the person asking it wasn’t amused. Actually, there are directions on the Internet for molding faux hard-cooked eggs out of tofu, or almond milk combined with agar-agar powder.
6. Duke’s or Hellmann’s?
Seriously, you’re asking a Southern woman this question?
Moose is a Raleigh-based cookbook author, including “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes From Simple to Sassy” by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, 2004). Reach her at debbiemoose.com.
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Springtime Herb Delights
From “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes From Simple to Sassy,” by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, 2004).
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and yolks mashed in a bowl
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
Salt and black pepper to taste
Fresh Italian parsley leaves for garnish
Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Stir in the finely chopped herbs. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.
Fill the whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with a whole parsley leaf.
Yield: 12 deviled eggs.
Crab Stuffed Eggs
From “Crabs & Oysters: A Savor the South Cookbook,” by Bill Smith (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
12 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound fresh special crabmeat, picked over for shell
2 tablespoons diced pickled jalapeno
A mixture of equal parts chili powder and smoked paprika to decorate the tops
Slice the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks into a bowl. Mash them with a fork and then stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Carefully fold in the crab and pickled jalapeno. Fill the egg whites and dust tops with the paprika mixture.
Yield: 24 deviled eggs.
Party Country Ham Deviled Eggs
From “Pig: King of the Southern Table,” by James Villas (John WIley & Sons, 2010).
2 ounces cooked lean country ham, minced
8 large hard-cooked eggs, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Paprika to taste
Sprigs of fresh parsley leaves
In a bowl, combine the ham, egg yolks, chives and pepper and mash with a fork until well blended. Add the mayonnaise, mustard and Worcestershire and stir until the mixture is very smooth.
Either use a fork to stuff equal amounts of the mixture into the egg white hollows or pipe it into the hollows using a pastry bag with a star tip. Sprinkle paprika over the top of each deviled egg, Arrange the eggs on a platter and chill until ready to serve garnished with sprigs of parsley.
Yield: 16 deviled eggs.