Growing up, I ate a fair amount of deviled eggs. My mom was a master lunch packer and packed my lunch all through school. She would create lunches full of little bits and bites, some dip and celery, shrimp or tuna salad and crackers, pickles, cheese wedges, the odd homemade cookie or a slice of cake and occasionally, deviled eggs. She would stick the two halves together so the yolk didn't smear and nestle it into a perfectly sized Tupperware container. She'd make one for herself and one for me as my picky brother and father were not interested.
My mom's eggs were simple: mayo, mustard, pickles and pepper. She even went through a spell of using tartar sauce instead of mayonnaise as a time saving measure. If you think about it, tartar sauce is basically spiced mayo mixed with chopped pickle and onion so it worked surprising well. My mom's deviled eggs were always good but in over the years I've developed a lot of different recipes. I've posted ten of my favorite variations on my blog over the past six years and I get the best feedback on them, even years after posting! People love, love, love deviled eggs.
As you can imagine, I have a hard time resisting a deviled egg myself. While on a recent trip to NYC, I encountered deviled eggs on the menu of three diverse restaurants over the course of a day and a half. Meat-centric Hill Country served deviled eggs that were very creamy and sprinkled with chipotle powder instead of the typical paprika. Little Giant's version had yolks spiked with fresh herbs that went particularly well with their house-made pickles. The most inventive was the Belgian restaurant Resto's almost stylized eggs served on small, crispy croquettes with just a thin slice of white topped with smooth, spicy yolk. Everyone I encountered was delighted to see deviled eggs on the menu and I saw them gracing many tables.
At first I was surprised to see deviled eggs on the menu and thought maybe it was a New York thing, tiny Manhattan apartments are notoriously tricky to cook in and I often see food on restaurant menus there that is much simpler and homier (think grilled cheese) than what I typically think of as "restaurant food". Then I realized I actually have had deviled eggs at restaurants twice back home in Baltimore in recent months. Once along side a clever salad and once topped with slivers of chipped ham as a small bite while waiting for a table. Is a return to comfort foods? Retro chic? In lean times, are restaurateurs seeing it solely as a food with high profit margins? I'm not sure but after a couple of meals, I was disappointed when a restaurant didn't have deviled eggs on the menu. I may have even used my GPS linked Yelp app to search for restaurants with well-reviewed deviled eggs near my hotel.
For me, the deviled egg was an every day type food. It wasn't until I was older that I realized that for most people, deviled eggs are more of a special occasion food, only appearing on tables for parties or family gatherings. I was astonished to hear that people say that the amount of work it takes to make deviled eggs, even from people who cook, was the main reason they don't make them more often. I think that comes from the idea that you have to make them a dozen at a time. It simply isn't true! My husband is not a big deviled egg fan (although he likes them when they wander into "stuffed egg" territory) and I work from home so I eat a lot of solo homemade lunches. Following my mom's lead I make micro batches of deviled eggs for a snack, just 2 or three eggs at a time, once every other month or so.
Making a small batch of deviled eggs only takes a few minutes and a tiny amount of effort. If you are making a big batch you can use a blender or food processor to get a super silky textured yolk. That doesn't really work for a small batch of eggs unless you have a very small mini chopper or food processor and then there is some yolk loss. After some experimenting, I worked out a technique that yields smooth yolks even in very small batches. I place the yolks into a very small bowl then smush them with a potato masher until they look fluffy and grainy. Then I add the wet ingredients (and spices if using) and beat the mixture against the side of the bowl with a fork until smooth. After that I stir in any solid ingredients like spinach or bacon or herbs until they are evenly distributed. It is a little fussy but why bother making them if they aren't going to be good? Another benefit of making tiny batches is that you really can experiment with the flavors without worrying if Aunt Suzy is going to like it at the family cook out.
Seven Spice Deviled Eggs
3 hard-boiled eggs*
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Japanese seven spice powder
1/3 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/3 teaspoon mustard powder
Slice the eggs in half. Scoop out the yolks and set the whites aside. In a small bowl, mash the yolks with a potato masher. Add the vinegar, mustard powder and 7 spice powder. Beat with a fork until smooth. Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites. Sprinkle with additional 7 spice powder to garnish. Refrigerate leftovers up to 3 days.
*I boil them in a little "butter warmer" but any small pan will do; if they have too much room they knock into each other and crack.
Coconut & Lime
(Image: Rachel Rappaport of Coconut & Lime)