Story and Photography by Lucinda Hutson
Whenever I visit my hometown of El Paso, my mother inevitably manages to invite too many last-minute guests for the cocktail hour. This is usually more a joy than a problem, but on a recent trip, Mom assumed I'd be able to magically conjure up tasty tidbits for our guests even though her fridge was practically empty. I improvised with what was on hand: some hard-boiled eggs, the remaining bit of my brother's scrumptious chunky blue-cheese dressing, some crunchy veggies and a few slices of bacon.
I cut the eggs in half, popped out and seasoned the yolks, thickened the lot with the tangy dressing and returned it in heaping dollops to the egg-white cradles. Sprinkled with crispy bacon bits, blue-cheese crumbles and chives, the eggs were a huge hit.
Deviled eggs are easy to make and help clean out the refrigerator at the same time. You can easily flavor and thicken egg yolks with almost any condiment—from mayonnaise and mustard, to pesto, chutney or even horseradish. Toss in the last few anchovies, capers, olives or pickles; grate that remaining wee bit of Parmesan or add yesterday's grilled salmon—it’s all fair game!
The culinary term deviled refers to dishes flavored with spicy, zesty seasonings. Deviled eggs are especially popular in the South, where they’re often referred to by religious devotees as dressed eggs to avoid any satanic association. I say bring on the fire!
When made with imagination (and spice!), deviled eggs are a welcome reprieve from standard, carb-laden party fare. Create your own signature versions! These stuffed delights lend themselves easily to various flavorings and unexpected surprises—think of your favorite ethnic cuisines and celebrate their ingredients and culinary traditions.
How about flavoring the yolks with wasabi-laced mayonnaise, green onion and pickled ginger? Strips of sashimi (and crunchy wasabi peas) could serve as garnish. For Southeast-Asian flair, flavor mayonnaise with sriracha (hot red chili sauce) and Thai basil. Add some minced shrimp and garnish with roasted peanuts. Try adding homemade hummus (see edibleaustin.com for recipes) and a few tablespoons of finely minced red bell pepper, raw beet or carrot for a Middle-Eastern egg. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh mint and a whole garbanzo bean. And for a truly American version, mound eggs whites with pimento cheese (with a kick of cayenne!), then top with a slice of a pimento-stuffed green olive.
Garnish your creations with fresh herb sprigs, edible flowers, colorful toppings and a sprinkling of paprika or other spices. Make your deviled eggs crunchy or creamy—be as devilish as you dare.
Start with Lucinda's Basic Deviled Eggs recipe, then try some of these variations:
DEVIL WITH THE BLUE DRESS ON
Use blue-cheese dressing instead of mayonnaise. Omit the Dijon, but keep the dry mustard. Use slightly less lemon juice. Add green onion, minced parsley and chives and 2–3 tablespoons finely minced celery and red bell pepper. Garnish: paprika, blue-cheese bits, chives and crumbled bacon
Flavor mayonnaise (part sour cream, optional) with canned chipotle in adobo to taste. Omit mustards, and add a scant tablespoon of tequila or lime juice, minced red onion, minced cilantro and dried oregano and cumin. Stir in a quarter cup grated cheddar (optional). Garnish: roasted pepitas, cayenne and chopped green onion
Flavor mayonnaise with pesto, roasted garlic, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes or truffle oil. Omit mustards and use white wine or balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice. Add onion or garlic, minced Italian parsley, basil or arugula and crushed cayenne. Garnish: anchovies, minced sun-dried tomatoes, capers, shredded Parmesan, parsley or basil
As a Web Exclusive, here are more of Lucinda's egg-cooking tips and recipe ideas:
Fresh eggs do not easily peel. Use eggs that are at least a week old (good recipe for nearly expired eggs). Avoid overcooking, as overcooked eggs develop a green layer around the yolk caused by a chemical reaction of sulfur and iron. The protein in the egg toughens and whites become rubbery. Bring eggs to room temperature before cooking. Place eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1½ inches. Do not crowd the eggs. Bring to rolling boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand for about 15 minutes. Drain water and slightly crack the large end of each egg. Transfer eggs to an ice-water bath and allow to cool. Peel eggs under cold running water, starting from the larger end, lifting the membrane under the shell as you peel.
If you do not have a special deviled-egg tray to hold eggs steady, simply trim a slice from the bottom of each egg white, creating a flat surface for presentation on the serving plate. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and spoon (or pipe, using a star-shaped pastry tip) filling in each half. Easy piping: place filling in a zip-top freezer bag (unsealed). Snip the corner to make a hole from which to squeeze the filling into the egg half.
Use part mayonnaise, part yogurt, flavored with 2 teaspoons hot curry powder and 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish or mango chutney. Omit Dijon and use dry mustard. Add lemon juice, green onion, minced red bell pepper, serrano and chopped cilantro. Garnish: fresh green or dried coriander seeds or pink peppercorns, curry powder or paprika, cilantro sprig.
Á LA DIJONNAISE
Make homemade garlic or shallot mayonnaise (or crème fraîche) and add chunks of smoked trout. Use Dijon, lemon juice and zest, minced celery, parsley, lemon thyme and tarragon. Garnish: paprika, capers, anchovies, fried shallots
Use a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream, and prepared horseradish instead of Dijon. Flavor with lemon juice, finely minced red onion and smoked salmon.Garnish: caviar or smoked salmon, minced red onion, dill.
Use rémoulade sauce flavored with Zatarain's Creole Mustard and spices instead of mayonnaise. Flavor with lemon juice, cayenne, minced celery, red onion and red bell pepper. Add chopped cooked shrimp or crawfish.Garnish: cayenne, minced red bell pepper, boiled shrimp or crawfish.