You can tell when a recipe has stood the test of time when it makes regular, repeated comebacks. For a perfect example, consider deviled eggs. In my more than five decades cooking professionally, I’ve seen them go repeatedly from appetizer favorite to jokey has-been to hip retro rediscovery — as they seem to be right now.
Deviled eggs trace back at least to the 18th century, and you’ll find variations in cuisines worldwide. But the preparation has remained basically unchanged down through the years and across many borders.
Hard-boil eggs and then cool, peel and halve them. Pop out their yolks, mash them (or pass them through a sieve for fluffier results), and mix them with enrichments and spicy seasonings (the source of the “deviled” adjective).
Finally, return the yolk mixture to the whites — and watch them disappear!
I know many people who say that they find it difficult to eat two hardboiled eggs but happily gobble up even more deviled eggs. It’s understandable. The stuffed halves are so irresistibly delicious that eating just one creates a strong desire for another. And, with the filling often piped decoratively into the whites, they’re just so pretty that you can’t resist picking up that gateway piece.
Deviled eggs are also so simple to make that you can prepare them easily for a small dinner party or a large cocktail gathering. Cooking and peeling the eggs calls for the most careful attention.
I prefer using eggs that have been packed and refrigerated for seven to 10 days after they were laid, since time and cool temperatures slightly change their internal chemistry to make the whites less likely to stick to the inside of the shells after boiling. Since most eggs reach supermarkets three to five days after they were laid, it makes sense to leave them in your refrigerator another four days to a week before cooking.
I start them in cold water to prevent the shells from cracking, as they sometimes do when cold eggs are added to already boiling water. And I cool and peel the eggs submerged in ice water, which helps you ease the shells from the whites more cleanly and easily.
In the following recipe, which my friend and fellow chef Marian Getz prepared with me recently during my 20th-anniversary appearance on Home Shopping Network, the seasonings are simple but lively. They include mustard, dill pickle, onion, honey, salt and pepper. Feel free to try your own variations, such as a little hot sauce or paprika, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce or minced anchovy. Chef Getz likes to use a pastry bag with a star tip to pipe the filling so beautifully that I couldn’t resist eating them myself, right on the air!
Makes 24 halves.
12 large eggs
1/4 cup good-quality mayonnaise, plus extra as needed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brine from bottled dill pickles
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon minced dill pickle
1 teaspoon minced yellow onion
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives or Italian parsley
First, hard-boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a saucepan or pot large enough to hold them in a single layer and add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Put the pan, uncovered, over medium-high heat, and bring the water to a boil; cover the pan, remove it from the heat and set a timer for 9 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a mixing bowl with ice cubes and water. When the timer goes off after 9 minutes, drain the eggs and immediately transfer them to the ice water to cool for about 5 minutes. To peel each egg, gently but firmly tap its shell underwater against the side of the bowl to crack it all over; then, with your fingertips, gradually peel off the shell underwater. Transfer the peeled eggs to a double layer of paper towels to drain, removing any last shell bits.
With a sharp knife, carefully cut each egg in lengthwise in half. With your fingertips, gently pop the yolk from each half into a fine-meshed metal strainer set on top of a mixing bowl, placing the whites cut sides up on a large plate or platter. With the back of a large, sturdy metal or wooden spoon, press the yolks through the strainer into the bowl, scraping off any yolks adhering to the underside of the strainer.
Add to the yolks the mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, honey, pickle and onion. Stir until thoroughly blended, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the yolk mixture to a piping bag fitted with the star tip. Close the bag and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Cover the egg white halves with plastic wrap and refrigerate as well.
Before serving, remove the egg whites from the refrigerator and uncover them. Remove the piping bag, and pipe the yolk mixture decoratively into each egg white half. Garnish with chives or parsley and paprika (if using), and serve immediately.