Deviled eggs seem to be enjoying a renaissance. They are on many menus these days. Sarah often makes them for catered dinners as well as for family occasions. Sometimes she stuffs them with smoked trout or other delicious fillings.
But in their simplest form, how difficult can deviled eggs be to make? Hard boiled eggs cut in half; yolk mashed with a little mayonnaise, mustard, lemon, salt and pepper; yolk mixture spooned or piped into the egg white halves; maybe a little garnish of paprika, snipped chives, or crumbled bacon. Simple is not always easy.
During this visit to California, deviled eggs have been on many menus. I have eaten many of them because I like them when they are good.
The best ones so far were served at the School Street Bistro in Lodi. My very minor quibbles were that the yolk filling was too runny (Too much mayonnaise?) and had too much mustard. Otherwise they were delicious, and their garnish of house-made French-fried potato straws was outstanding I could have eaten a plate of the potato straws by themselves.
Some of the eggs have had a rubbery texture undoubtedly from the eggs being boiled too hard and/or too long.
The ones I liked the least were the ones that were supposed to be the fanciest. The word, “truffles”, seems to make something more luxe. Visions of pigs rooting up fungi at the base of a French hazelnut tree come into play, or a liveried waiter shaving little shards with his special knife onto a perfect French omelet. That’s not the same as truffle oil. This condiment has been banned from many a high-end kitchen. The well-known San Francisco chef and writer, Daniel Patterson, has written a great piece in the New York Times about why truffle oil does not find favor with professional chefs.
The main reason is that almost no commercial truffle oil contains actual truffles. The fragrance and taste of real truffles come from a complex array of compounds. The most prominent appears to be a chemical, 2,4-dithiapentane, that can be synthesized in a laboratory or factory. And that is the chemical that is added to truffle oil to give it flavor. Small wonder that foods which incorporate commercial truffle oil take on a chemical flavor; some would even say petroleum-like.
Here is a basic recipe for deviled eggs, perhaps of the Southern variety. If you don’t like it, experiment by adjusting the amounts of the basic ingredients and add any extras that sound appealing to you. Just – please – don’t add truffle oil.
Basic Deviled Eggs
- eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon mayonnaise for each egg
- 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard for each egg
- few drops fresh lemon juice for each egg
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pierce the large end of each egg with an egg piercer and place in a single layer in a saucepan with enough water to cover the eggs by at least an inch. Bring to the boil over high heat, just until large bubbles begin to appear around the eggs. Cover, remove from the heat, and let stand, undisturbed, for 10 to 18 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs and the altitude.* You should work out the time beforehand. Transfer the eggs to a large bowl filled with ice and water. Chill for the same amount of time as you used for the cooking.
- Peel the eggs by cracking them all over and, starting at the big end, peeling them under a small stream of running water. The longer the eggs sit in the refrigerator before peeling them, the harder it will be to peel them and the more likely you are to get the dreaded green ring around the yolks, so it is best to prepare them immediately.
- Slice the cooled eggs in half lengthwise and gently remove the cooked yolk. Press the yolk through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer into a medium bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon juice. If the mixture is too stiff, very slowly stir in more mayonnaise by half teaspoonfuls until the consistency suits you. Adjust the mustard and lemon juice to please you. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Spoon or pipe the yolk mixture into the empty halves of cooked egg white. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and serve.
* At 7000 feet, a jumbo egg takes 18 minutes to cook; a large egg takes 16 minutes. Probably at sea level you should deduct about 2 minutes for each cooking time, but it is best to work out specific times for your cooking conditions.