A SLIGHTLY OVERCOMPLICATED LOVE SONG: TO DEVILED EGGS
In my experience, there’s the things that are really, really good. And then there are the things that everybody likes. They aren’t the same things. The things that are really, really good tend to threaten or question the general way of things, and being as people like things the way they are, they tend not to like the really, really good things– opting instead for the things everybody likes. And the things everybody likes tend to be those things because they’ve been stripped of all the things that could make them really, really good things, leaving a sort of generic halfway thing that everybody can project their own things onto… After that you get into the things that everybody pretends to like because it seems like the thing to do or it’s the latest thing, but that’s a whole other thing. All that said I find that there are a few things that everybody likes simply because they are, in fact, really, really good things. Grizzly bears and Alcatraz are two of those things. Deviled eggs are another.
I’ve had a long, winding relationship with deviled eggs. As a kid I loved them. Loved’m. Especially with a little extra paprika on top and more yellow mustard than mayonnaise. Back in the days before anything left out of the fridge for longer than 5 minutes was considered a chemical weapon, Easter morning was a sort of deviled egg binge as we consumed all the dozens of dyed eggs my cousins and I had hidden and then found around the yard. Years later, a few summer catering jobs brought me close to deviled egg overload when on multiple Saturday afternoons I had only a few hours to cook, peel, stuff and garnish close to 1500 of the bastards for various corporate picnics we were covering. Yet even after this, I returned.
Like an oddly picnic slanted torch singer, I come back to deviled eggs no matter how they may do me wrong. I think the reason for this is that the tasty little eggy bits are a natural fit just about anywhere. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s really not a complete picnic, cookout, family gathering, late night ham binge or holiday without them. (And don’t gimme that business about how Christmas and eating ham by yourself at 2am are the same thing, they’re not.)
Something so ubiquitous deserves some serious love and attention. And over the various years, love and attention is what I’ve given them, with varying results. My feeling always was that if something can be so delicious using a basic slew of fridge-door jars and squeeze bottles, there must be a second plain of deliciousness just beyond the immediate horizon. I tried a lot of things to attain higher deviled eggdom. There were many attempts at outsmarting them. I added sautéed mushrooms and truffle oil, fontina cheese and prosciutto, arugula, I’ve thrown a lot of crap on an egg trying to make it somehow better. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that I was simply outsmarting myself. Trying to change a deviled egg into something it’s not in the name of making it “better” is something that shouldn’t be done. You can fancy up a deviled egg all you want and in the end, your grandmother’s version will always be better.
Put simply, a deviled egg is a deviled egg. A singular sort of gloppy bite that should be jammed wholly into one’s mouth and washed down with some fizzy yellowish beer. Because of this, I turned away from embellishment and turned to trying to perfect the egg’s individual elements with minimal garnish. My conclusion is this: start with farm eggs, make your own mayonnaise, use Coleman’s dry mustard and quickly pickled shallots and chives instead of pickle relish. If you’re feeling fancy put something simple on top—a sliced Serrano pepper, maybe a piece of pork confit you’ve got laying around the fridge, one of my favorite barbecue joints in town serves them with some caviar on top. Basically pick something to provide some interest without stealing the glory of the bite. (Yes, we’re still talking about deviled eggs).
Here’s my recipe– I’m sure there are other versions that are as good or better, but these are pretty damn good.
1 dozen farm eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
Lemon juice and a little water
Coleman’s dry mustard
1 shallot, diced
Red wine vinegar
Fresh chives, sliced thin
Good quality paprika, Hungarian or smoked depending on your mood
Cover the diced shallot in vinegar and let marinate for 30 minutes or more. Boil 11 of the eggs for 10 minutes and cool quickly then peel. Take the remaining egg and separate it. Blend the yolk in a food processor with the lemon juice, water and salt. Set aside the white for another use. With the blades running dribble in your oil to make some fresh mayonnaise. Slice the peeled eggs and put the yolks in a bowl. Mash them with the vinegar/shallot mixture as well as some dry mustard, chives and paprika. Add the mayo a bit at a time till you get the texture and consistency you like. Pipe or spoon the mix back into the eggs. Sprinkle with chives, more paprika and whatever other garnish you have on hand. Wash them down with a delicious and crisp beer like Austin Beer Works Pearl Snap Pilsner and think of your grandma.