HISTORY OF DEVILED EGGS (+ A RECIPE)

It takes a special kind of food to require it’s own specific food transportation system. Anyone who has ever attempted to serve – and certainly travel with – deviled eggs knows that eggs resting on an ordinary plate will end up smashed, flattened, or in the floor. I personally have at least 3 different deviled egg plates – one plastic, one ceramic, and a “fancy” glass one for special events. As a child, I would rush to the buffet table at every church dinner to get the biggest egg. As an adult, I ration out only one on my Thanksgiving dinner plate, but have been known to sneak extras when no one is looking.

My grandmother’s were always my favorite growing up, perhaps because they were made with dill pickle relish and an extra spoonful of mayonnaise. I avoided my aunt’s because she made her eggs with sweet pickles, which I strongly disliked. Our neighbor (who called them “angel eggs” to avoid association with wickedness) topped her eggs with paprika, which seemed elegant, colorful, and exciting. But—at heart—the deviled egg itself is not particularly fancy and has many incarnations. These days, I like them all.

The basic deviled egg is hard boiled, shelled, and halved. Each half is filled with a scoop of the hard-boiled yolk mixed with ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish and served cold. Each family seems to have their own variation that might include vinegar, paprika, chili powder, or even kimchi or Sriracha chili sauce.

Though the hors d’oeuvres seem uniquely American, a modified version actually existed in ancient Rome. Wealthy Roman diners were served a first course called “gustatio” – which was basically boiled eggs seasoned with some sort of spicy sauce. By the 1400s, different versions of stuffed eggs became popular across Europe and recipes can be found in medieval cookbooks. The Fanny Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cookbook”, published in 1896, is the first known publication to suggest using mayonnaise in the deviled egg’s filling. But, as mayonnaise wasn’t a common household condiment until refrigeration became standard practice, it wasn’t the norm to use mayo as a binding agent until the 1940s.

In the culinary sense, the term “deviled” actually has nothing to do with red horns and fiery pitchforks. When referencing food, the word generally means a spiced or seasoned dish. It is possible that this word was adopted as a term for a spicy dish because of its association with the netherworld, but no one knows for sure. In the past, we’ve experimented with different deviled egg recipes in the café. I published my own recipe for deviled eggs in Alabama Studio Style and once even shared a recipe for pink deviled eggs on our Journal. We have Deviled Eggs on the menu at The Factory this week—without the Deviled Egg plate.

DEVILED EGGS from page 115 Alabama Studio Style

12 hard-boiled eggs (see Note)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (homemade, if you can)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 dashes of hot sauce
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (optional)
Green onion or paprika, for garnish

Note:  My grandmother swore by the “boil and rest” method of boiling eggs: In a saucepan, cover eggs with cold water, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let “rest” for 10 minutes. Pour off hot water, cover with cold water, replace the lid, and let “rest” for another 20 minutes. Peel and cool the eggs.

Slice the boiled eggs in half lengthwise, and transfer yolks to a mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the whites. Set the whites aside on an egg plate or other serving dish, hole side up. Mash the yolks with a fork until very fine. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and hot sauce, mixing well until smooth and creamy. Stir in the relish, if using. Spoon or pipe the yolk mixture back into the egg white “cups” and garnish. Keep eggs cool and covered until ready to serve.

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