In Praise of a Classic
By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press
The sight of a deviled egg transports me to the backyard barbecues of my childhood. This could be any barbecue on any occasion in any year, because whenever my dad put match to charcoal it meant just one thing: hamburgers and hot dogs, accompanied by baked beans and macaroni salad. Potato chips and deviled eggs were our appetizers.
It took me a while to try my mom’s deviled eggs because they had mayonnaise in them, and if you know anything about my history with food, you know that the list of things I would not eat when I was little is longer than Trump’s tax return. I don’t recall how I got past my distrust of the pillowy yellow swirl and began to eat them, but I did.
My parents never entertained, so except for other kids’ birthdays, these barbecues shaped my understanding of what to serve at a party. Appetizer = Deviled Eggs. Once I grew up and began to attend dinners and host some of my own, I had fun discovering all the different things apps could be. Sometimes you could even have a whole meal built around them.
You might say that for a while, I overcompensated. When I gave dinner parties, I would focus more on the appetizers than the meal itself. I’d serve copious combinations of apps that might include stuffed veggies, an onion tart, fruit and cheese, a hummus platter, shrimp, chicken satay, crudité, a frittata, bruschetta, empanadas, or paté-so many that the main course would be unnecessary (especially since I’d also include a soup or salad course to start).
Deviled eggs were noticeably absent from my rotating app menu. They were pedestrian; something you serve when you don’t know any better. I had moved on.
But every once in a while, I would attend a party, perhaps a potluck, where somebody would bring deviled eggs. I began to notice how delighted guests were by them, and how fast the egg plate emptied. I came to realize that, yes, deviled eggs are indeed homespun, and that’s a key to their appeal. Simple comforts can be so very satisfying.
Satisfaction isn’t always easy to come by in our age of COVID. As I write this we face many more months of lockdown and distancing, even as we hope to be turning the corner on the pandemic. We are also eyeing the end of 2020, which cannot come fast enough for most of us. Reason enough to celebrate in a simple, but satisfying way-perhaps that’s actually the most appropriate choice. Time to put some eggs on to boil and get the ice bath ready.
There are scores of variations on deviled eggs. These little vessels can accommodate additions that range from simple (chives) to sophisticated (caviar). You may well have a favorite, but if you don’t, here’s a classic recipe by Catherine Walthers from her Lake Isle Press book, “Soups and Sides.”
SERVES 4 TO 6
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Pinch of cayenne
1. Place eggs in a medium saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and let eggs remain in pan for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of cold water to cool before removing the shells.
2. Carefully slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place in a small bowl. Mash well with a fork and mix in the mayonnaise, chives, salt to taste, and a pinch of cayenne. Mix until smooth.
3. Place filling in a pastry bag and pipe back into the egg white halves.
Recipe from “Soups + Sides” by Catherine Walthers, Lake Isle Press, 2010
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on December 30, 2020.