08/04/11 • WICKED-GOOD DEVILED EGGS
From the Jan./Feb., 2011 Saveur (click here to view the recipe)
Have you ever noticed the way dinner guests grow suddenly quiet when presented with a platter of deviled eggs? Just enter a crowded room carrying a tray loaded with these little flavor-packed egg cups and watch the way the buzz of conversation suddenly dims. It’s not necessarily that anyone is overwhelmed by your culinary prowess or ambition, but simply because they’re suddenly, ravenously, hungry, and those tiny snacks are looking awfully good. Even if no one makes an immediate move — and they may not, not wanting to appear too greedy by being the first to lunge — turn your back for just a moment and that platter will likely be wiped cleaned. Such is human nature when the devil’s in the room.
I know what I’m talking about here, having myself been guilty of eating more than my share of said item on multiple occasions. It’s the self-contained nature of the deviled egg that tends to do me in — the way one little egg saucer sits so precisely on my tongue and is then sent on its way so quickly, before the experience can properly be registered. It all happens so fast that it only seems right that I have another, and then another, just to be certain that I ever had one at all. And then there’s the fact that so many of the components called into play here are ones I have a particular weakness for — ingredients that almost always include mayonnaise and mustard, but that can also feature an endless array of tempting add-ons, such as pickles, crumbled bacon, capers, Worcestershire sauce, olives, caviar, cheese, and . . . Well, you get the idea.
In fact, when it comes to making deviled eggs there seems to be as many variations as there are mouths to eat them — which is to say it’s endless. I even have a friend from the south who insists on adding sugar to the yolk mixture, which made for one deviled egg experience I don’t want to repeat. Still, it’s this spirit of individuality that caught my eye in a story on deviled eggs that ran last winter in Saveur, and that I’ve been saving for just the right moment. The piece features four different approaches, from a traditional southern style (minus the sugar, happily), to a variety that moves smoked trout into a leading role.
Those all sounded better than good to me, but the one I kept rolling around in my head and that ultimately grabbed me by the apron strings and dragged me into the kitchen was a relatively simple one with a single exclamatory addition: pickled jalapeño (the recipe is based on one in Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl and Bill Jamison). As it turns out, this was just the thing my heat-seeking taste buds have been longing for during these dog days of summer. The cool of a mayonnaise-y egg is particularly appealing when the weather gets warm, and the experience seems to be bull-horned when paired with something that offers a little heat. I’m a big fan of heat where food is concerned, and especially so when it’s delivered on the back of vinegar. Which is to say that I’m a big fan of these eggs.
Even at their most ambitious a deviled egg is rarely a complicated thing to assemble, and this recipe is likely easier than most. The biggest challenge is getting the eggs cooked correctly, which in the end isn’t that challenging at all once you nail the timing (see instructions below for details). Beyond that it’s simply a matter of some chopping (flat-leaf parsley, a little onion, celery, the aforementioned jalapenos), some mixing (yolks together with mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, spices, and the previously chopped items), then piping the yolk mixture back into the egg whites, which can be done with something as low tech as a plastic bag. In fact, my biggest hurdle in making these eggs was trying not to eat them all before my guests arrived.
That said, I did encounter one speed bump on my way to deviled egg delirium, and it came when it was time to remove the shells — a process that proved slow enough that my back started to hurt and which led to the somewhat nicked and battered look of the lineup you see before you. Now I have always understood that the freshest eggs are the easiest to peel, but after a little digging I learned that for best results you actually want to start with eggs that have been refrigerated for at least several days. Most likely that will include any that you buy at the supermarket, though perhaps not ones from the farmer’s market (the source for mine).
The other thing you want to be sure to do is to plunge the cooked eggs into a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool completely. This will help the papery membrane surrounding the egg to stick to the shell, thus making them easier to peel. Once the heat subsides, tap the large end of the egg against a hard surface until it cracks, then do the same with the other end. With any luck the shell will slip right off and your eggs will be pristine and photo ready.
—3 tbs mayonnaise
—3 tbs sour cream
—2 tbs minced flat-leaf parsley
—2 tbs minced pickled jalapenos, plus more for garnish
—2 tbs yellow mustard
—1 tbs minced celery
—1 tbs minced onion
—½ tsp paprika, plus more for garnish
—Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
—Put eggs into a 4-qt. pot of water and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 15 minutes. Drain eggs and crack each shell slightly. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let cool.
—Peel eggs. Halve each egg; using a small spoon, transfer yolks to a medium bowl. Using a fork, mash yolks. —Add mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, jalapenos, mustard, celery, onions, and paprika; season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously with spatula until smooth.
—Transfer mixture to a plastic bag or a piping bag fitted with a smooth tip and pipe into egg whites.
—Garnish eggs with more paprika, if you like, and pickled jalapenos. Serve cold or at room temperature.