(Really good) deviled eggs
I have a weakness for deviled eggs. They are the high school quarterback gone all-American, the little black dress at a cocktail party, the hors d'oeuvres equivalent of a perfect apple pie. Deviled eggs are a dish most everyone loves, classic and timeless, ideal for a summer gathering. When Karen and Crystal sent me their summer dinner party menu and asked if I would bring a starter or two, deviled eggs were the first thing that came to mind.
I grew up with good-but-not-great-deviled eggs. Who can forget the paprika-sprinkled yellow-and-white orbs that emerged at every picnic? The spice added color and a bit of flavor, but I don't think they did the egg any favors. My mother added jarred pickle relish to the yolk mixture, and while they were tasty, the relish sometimes overpowered the yolks. Eggs are delicious but delicate. It's important to enhance the goodness that is a perfectly hard-boiled egg without overwhelming it.
As an adult I learned to 1) make my own mayonnaise and 2) break away from the relish-dominated-paprika-dusted model. I learned that simple is better if you use the best ingredients. Eggs are easier to shell when they're old, because the air pocket between the hard outer shell and the contents expands over time. Hard-boiled eggs are easier to peel if you do it quickly, just after shocking them in cold water, and while still submerged.
I'm always up for variations on a theme: curried deviled eggs, deviled eggs topped with chow-chow, with caviar, with country ham — but these are my favorite.
(Really good) Deviled Eggs
Makes 24 eggs if split in half lengthwise; 12 if used as cups
12 large eggs
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup homemade mayonnaise (recipe follows)
3 teaspoons freshly chopped tarragon or chives
Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Immediately shut off the heat and cover the pan when the water hits the boiling point. Set the eggs aside and let them rest for 10-11 minutes.
Drain and rinse the eggs with cold water, shaking them against the edges of the pan to crack the shells. Peel and cut in half (more traditional), or remove the top third of the egg, forming a cup. Remove the yolks and set the whites aside.
Push the cooked yolks through a fine-meshed sieve. This is time consuming but worth it — the filling will be significantly creamier than if you simply mashed the yolks with a fork. Combine the sieved yolks with vinegar, sea salt, sugar, and homemade mayonnaise. Taste and adjust seasonings (vinegar, salt, mayonnaise) as necessary. Use a teaspoon to fill the whites with the yolk mixture. Sprinkle with freshly chopped tarragon or chives just before serving.
Makes about 1 1/4 cup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon Coleman's dry mustard
1-2 pinches sugar
2 egg yolks*
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, dry mustard, and sugar in a bowl and whisk to dissolve the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Begin whisking these ingredients at a fast pace,
then slowly — drop by drop — add the oil. The mixture will thicken and lighten in color, at which point you can pour the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly.
Homemade mayonnaise will keep in the refrigerator for about one week.
* Consuming raw egg yolks increases your risk of Salmonella or other food borne illnesses.