Deviled eggs will suit almost everyone at any gathering, regardless of the season. And — bonus for the cook — they are easy to make.
Seriously. These hard-cooked halves, gloriously filled with inspiration from the kitchen, disappear like, well, ice on a hot day. It never fails: You can have a table overflowing with delicious splendor, sweet or savory, and the one dish that gets the most attention will be this most common of homespun recipes.
Trust me. At least one of your guests will say about the deviled eggs, “These are my favorite.” (Are you not saying those exact words right now at the mere mention of this dish?)
Their popularity may be because few of us make them often, if at all, so their appearance on the table is a welcome surprise, like the platter of Christmas cookies that shows up in December. Restaurants and supermarkets rarely offer the eggs, and when they do, their version is never as tender and tasty as homemade. That makes those on the dinner table even more of a treat.
Stuffed eggs, as they are also known, have been around since at least the 19th century, from when the name “deviled” was applied, indicating a spicy or particularly zesty flavor. Since then, there haven’t been a lot of changes to the basic formula, although individual cooks have always tweaked the eggs to make them their own.
In recent years, however, the method for prepping the eggs has evolved. Today we hard-cook the eggs, not hard-boil them. The distinction makes a difference. In the past, cooks boiled eggs until they were sure they were done — not unlike green beans — and that timing was up to interpretation. But thanks to food science, we now know that high heat toughens the proteins of eggs and makes them rubbery and (horrors!) can create a dreaded drab-greenish tinge on yolks.
Today’s advice for preparation is simple: Be gentle when cooking eggs. Add them to a pan and fill with enough water to cover the eggs by about 1 inch of liquid. Heat the water to the point where it’s just starting to boil. Immediately take the pan off the heat (no dawdling!), cover and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes for large eggs, more or less by a minute or two with other sizes. The next step is plenty of cold water to stop the cooking.
Then it’s peel, mash, mix and fill the hollowed eggs. What could be easier?
Give these crowd-pleasers a try the next time you’re tapped for a potluck picnic. But save a few for nibbling at breakfast. This classic is a treat at any time.
Basic Deviled Eggs
Makes 24 halves.
Note: From Lee Svitak Dean.
• 12 large eggs
• About 6 tbsp. mayonnaise, more or less as needed for preferred consistency
• 3 tsp. mustard (Dijon, yellow or your preference)
• Salt and white pepper
• Paprika or minced fresh herb for garnish (flat-leaf parsley, chives, dill, chervil, tarragon)
Place eggs in a large saucepan, add water and cover by
1 inch, and bring just to a boil, uncovered.
Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let sit for
15 minutes. Immediately drain the water and run cold water over the eggs, or plunge them into a bowl of ice and cold water. Cool the eggs.
If using them later, refrigerate unpeeled for up to a week.
If using them immediately, lightly crack the eggs, all over, on a hard surface and remove the shell in pieces. Rinse the egg to remove any bits of leftover shell.
Slice the eggs in half lengthwise and place the yolks in a medium-size bowl. For the creamiest (non-lumpy) filling, push the eggs through a sieve. Otherwise, mash the yolks with a fork. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fill the hollow of the egg white with the filling. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Sprinkle with paprika or herbs immediately before serving.
Smoked Salmon Stuffed Eggs
Makes 24 halves.
Note: From “The Herbal Kitchen,” by Jerry Traunfeld, who suggests 18 minutes (rather than 15) for large eggs to be cooked in the hot water.
• 12 large hard-cooked eggs
• 1/2 c. sour cream
• 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
• 1/2 c. (3 oz.) diced cold-smoked salmon
• 2 tbsp. finely chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
• 2 tbsp. chopped chervil, plus small sprigs for garnish
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cut the hard-cooked eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. For the creamiest (non-lumpy) filling, push the eggs through a sieve. Or mash the yolks with a fork. Beat in the sour cream and salt. Stir in the salmon, chives, chervil and black pepper. Spoon into the hollow of the whites. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with chives and chervil immediately before serving.
Who says deviled eggs have to be basic? Start with the traditional recipe and then experiment with some of these options.
• Anchovy paste
• Blue cheese or feta
• Crab and other seafood
• Curry powder
• Green onions
• Herbs: fresh chives, dill, tarragon, chervil, parsley or basil
• Jalapeños or other peppers
• Pesto: Skip the mustard and substitute a few tablespoons of pesto
• Pimento cheese: Stuff egg entirely with pimento cheese
• Salmon, smoked
• Tuna, canned
• Garnishes: olives, capers, caviar, fresh herbs, roasted red peppers, chile peppers
• Substitute yogurt, sour cream, crème fraîche or olive oil for the mayo in the filling.
Tips for perfection
• For a creamy texture,
prepare the filling while the egg yolks are still warm for easy mashing. Or press the yolks through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon.
• To make a pretty swirl with the filling, use a pastry bag with a round or fluted tip and half-inch-wide opening. Or cut a corner from a small plastic bag, add filling and squeeze it onto the hollow of the egg.
• Chill the filled eggs for at least 30 minutes before serving.