Well, good folks: the results are in! Of the three varieties of Devilled Eggs, (also known as Deviled Eggs, take your pick), the hands-down winner was none other than The Master of the Feast himself, James Beard! This pronouncement made official by yours truly and Celebrity Judge, Mr. Grant K. Gibson, Easter Sunday, 2011. I present all three recipes here, since they were all tasty. Make up a batch of each and YOU BE THE JUDGE!
Having been asked to make devilled eggs for Easter, and knowing there were to be 40 guests, I decided I had better make three different varieties – mostly so that I wouldn’t be bored out of my scull with the boiling, shelling and stuffing of 6 dozen eggs! I also must admit to skipping the sieve step – instead (hello! Child of the 1970s!) I ran the cooked egg yolks through the Cuisinart. Oh thank heavens for electricity! And for the French. Actually, the experiment turned out to be quite amusing, and we really did carefully evaluate the results. I should point out that each book I consulted offered several variations on devilled eggs, so it really was a difficult choice. Next year: three more! (And someone else to crack them all…)
I assumed from the get-go that the entry featuring bacon would be the winner, bacon being so hot these days. And in fact, the bacon-eggs flew off the trays, even before I had finished preparing them! Note: the bacon crumbles were too large to fit through my piping tube, so I had to abandon the lovely presentation for those. People didn’t seem to notice, as they were too busy gobbling. As Grant put it, though, the bacon mixture was “surprisingly not my favorite” – it was too sweet. (Catsup was the culprit there.) Next time: hot sauce instead! I was happy with the minced chives as a garnish, which did help to cut the sweetness a bit.
The curried eggs were quite good, and a very familiar taste, but I left off the parsley on those as I had previously used it to garnish the “plain” ones, and I felt the paprika sprinkle was perfect. They were really good and I would be proud to serve them any time. But….
James Beard’s were just THAT MUCH BETTER! As Grant said, “James Beard gets an A!” and I agree. His version is a basic deviled egg: not fancy, just perfect. It differs from my mother’s only in that she uses parsley only as a garnish (not part of the egg filling) and she omits the Worcestershire. I also added about ½ teaspoon of apple-cider vinegar when the mixture tasted too grassy (parsley) and that did it. These are the ones I will make over and over, and it pleases me to know that I must be doing “America’s Greatest Chef” proud!
James Beard “Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapes” (1940)
James Beard just can’t be beat, in writing (Historical quotes! The source of foreign words! Wit!) and in recipes, and this little book is a definitive resource for every possible detail of a cocktail party. Though written in 1940, his advice still seems fresh and sensible. “The cocktail party no longer means a bottle of gin, a can of sardines, and a package of potato chips from the corner grocery.” (!!) He also endorses what my grandmother always said, that no party was complete without deviled eggs: “No matter what else is served at a cocktail party, you will always find that a tray of stuffed eggs will be one of the most popular items. These disappear more rapidly than anything else.” Boy was he right: even as I was assembling the eggs on Easter, guests were snatching them right off the trays before they were garnished!
Remove the yolks from 6 hard-cooked eggs and force them through a fine sieve. Add one teaspoonful of salt, one teaspoonful of dry mustard, one half teaspoonful of freshly ground, black pepper, one teaspoonful of Worcestershire Sauce, one and one half tablespoonfuls of chopped parsley, and at least a tablespoonful of mayonnaise. Beat well with a fork till the mixture forms a full paste, adding more mayonnaise if necessary. Fill the white halves, using a pastry tube, and garnish with chopped parsley or tiny strips of pimiento.
Peter Pauper Press with recipes by Edna Beilenson and decorations by Ruth McCrea “The ABC of Canapes” (1953)
I had to mention the decorations, because Peter Pauper Press was known as much, if not more, for its graphic design, than for the recipes, but it turns out that both are delightful, despite the vagueness of the quantity needed.
Eggs, Deviled with Bacon
To the mashed cooked yolks, add double the amount of crisply fried, crushed bacon. Moisten with catsup, a little mustard, and a little mayonnaise. Heap into halves of egg-whites.
Jules J. Bond “The eggs & cheese I love” (1978)
This cute little book offered probably the most comprehensive and step-by-step instructions, as well as a surprising number of creative recipes along with old standards. For a beginning cook, I would absolutely recommend this one, for the clarity as well as the good end result.
Curried Devilled Eggs (for 4 to 5)
12 hard-boiled eggs (the smaller the better) 1/3 cup mayonnaise 1 tsp. curry powder (or, if available, curry paste) 1 tsp. Dijon mustard Salt and pepper to taste 1 tsp. paprika 2 Tbsp. minced parsley
Shell eggs and cut lengthwise in half. Remove yolks and rub through a strainer, then blend with all other ingredients. Fill the egg halves. The best and easiest way to fill them is using a pastry bag with a star tube. Garnish each egg half with a sprinkle of parsley and paprika.