Eric Akis: Devilled eggs a hit on any occasion

Eric Akis

You know devilled eggs are widely popular and will never fall out of favour when every time you have served them, whether it was in 1981 or last month, people started reaching for one before you even set them on the table.

That recently occurred again when my wife and I brought two platters full of them to a friend’s potluck birthday party. We walked in the door with them and, within seconds, folks were elbowing their way toward us and those devilled eggs.

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An egg, cooked, cooled, halved and stuffed with a creamy, tangy filling is irresistible, cold comfort food for many. That explains why my wife and I couldn’t resist eating a couple of those eggs before heading over to the party.

The Oxford Companion to Food says when you “devil” a food, it means you’re cooking it with fiery hot spices or condiments. In the case of devilled eggs, though, you’re are not cooking the eggs with ingredients like that, you’re flavouring the already-cooked egg yolk filling with them.

In a traditional recipe, pungent mustard is the ingredient that puts “the devil” into a devilled egg. In today’s three recipes, though, I switched things up and replaced the mustard in the egg filling with such ingredients as curry powder, pesto and horseradish, and garnished my eggs with toppings that worked well with those flavourings.

These stuffed eggs are nice to serve at Easter or any other special occasion. All recipes can be halved or doubled.

How to hard-boil eggs 

To make a good devilled egg, one needs to properly hard-boil the egg. This is my method, which yields solid, perfectly yellow yolks each time.

• Place eggs you want to cook, plus a couple of more just in case you mess up when peeling them, in a pot. Cover eggs with cold water by at least one inch. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. The surface of the water should be just moving, with small bubbles rising and breaking on the surface. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain that gentle boil. (Don’t rapidly boil eggs or they will bounce around and crack and/or cook unevenly.) Set a timer for nine minutes.

• When nine minutes are up, quickly remove eggs from the heat and drain the water. Now, fill the pot with ice-cold water. Let the eggs sit three minutes, to stop the cooking, then start peeling. During this cooling period, the eggs will contract a tiny bit from the shell, and still be a little warm, both of which will make them easier to peel.

• To peel an egg, gently tap and crack it at its wider, less-pointed end. A small pocket of air develops at the end of the egg when it cooks. That tiny spot, where no egg white is attached to the shell, is the perfect spot to start peeling a boiled egg.

Pesto Devilled Eggs with Cherry Tomato 

You can use store-bought or homemade pesto to flavour these stuffed eggs, each colourfully garnished with a piece of cherry tomato.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: nine minutes to cook eggs

Makes: 24 eggs

12 large hard-boiled eggs, chilled and peeled

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded head or leaf lettuce (optional)

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

2 Tbsp basil pesto

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 cherry tomatoes, each quartered

24 small basil, Italian parsley or oregano leaves

With a sharp, thin knife, carefully slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks from each half-egg and place in a bowl. Arrange the egg halves on a large platter, lined with shredded lettuce, if using.

Mash the egg yolks until very smooth with the back of a soupspoon. Add the mayonnaise and pesto and vigorously mix until the mixture is smooth and no flecks of egg yolk remain. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Pipe or spoon the yolk filling into the egg halves (see Eric’s options). Top each egg with a 1/4 cherry tomato and a leaf of basil (or parsley or oregano), and serve.

Eric’s options: You can fill the eggs and set them on the platter hours before serving. Tent with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, topping them with the cherry tomato and leaf of basil (or parsley or oregano) just before you do.

Madras Curry Devilled Eggs with Chutney 

Aromatic curry powder, not mustard, adds the spiciness to the filling for these devilled eggs. The small spoon of chutney set on top of each egg adds a balancing hint of sweetness.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: nine minutes to cook eggs

Makes: 24 eggs

12 large hard-boiled eggs, chilled and peeled

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded head or leaf lettuce (optional)

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 to 1 1/2 tsp Madras curry powder (see Note)

2 tsp fresh lime juice

• salt to taste

2 Tbsp bottled mango chutney, or to taste (I used Patak’s)

24 small cilantro or parsley sprigs

With a sharp, thin knife, carefully slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks from each half-egg and place in a bowl. Arrange the egg halves on a large platter, lined with shredded lettuce, if using.

Mash the yolks until very smooth with the back of a soupspoon. Add the mayonnaise, curry powder and lime juice and vigorously mix until the mixture is smooth and no flecks of egg yolk remain. Taste the mixture and season with salt.

Pipe or spoon the yolk filling into the egg halves (see Eric’s options). Top each egg with a 1/4 tsp spoon of chutney and a cilantro (or parsley) sprig, and serve.

Note: Madras curry powder is sold in tins in the spice/herb aisle of most supermarkets. If you can’t find it, regular curry powder could also be used in this recipe.

Eric’s options: You can fill the eggs and set them on the platter hours before serving. Tent with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, topping them with the chutney and cilantro (or parsley) just before you do.

Dilled Horseradish Devilled Eggs with Candied Salmon and Caviar

These fancy eggs are stuffed with an herbaceous, tangy filling and tastily topped with slices of sweet and smoky fish, and pleasingly salty salmon caviar.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: nine minutes to cook eggs

Makes: 24 eggs

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded head or leaf lettuce (optional)

12 large hard-boiled eggs, chilled and peeled

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

2 to 3 tsp finely chopped fresh dill

2 tsp horseradish

2 tsp lemon juice

• salt and white pepper, to taste

24 thin slices candied smoked salmon nuggets (see Note)

6 tsp salmon caviar, or to taste (see Note and Eric options)

24 small dill sprigs

With a sharp, thin knife, carefully slice the eggs in half lengthwise.

Remove the yolks from each half-egg and place in a bowl. Arrange the egg halves on a large platter, lined with shredded lettuce, if using.

Mash the egg yolks until very smooth with the back of a soupspoon.

Add the mayonnaise, chopped dill, horseradish and lemon juice and vigorously mix until the mixture is smooth and know flecks of egg yolk remain. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Pipe or spoon the yolk filling into the egg halves (see Eric’s options).

Top each stuffed egg with a slice of candied smoked salmon, a small spoon of caviar and a dill sprig, and then serve.

Note: Candied smoked salmon nuggets are sold in the seafood department of most supermarkets. You need about four of them to get the slices required here. Salmon caviar is sold in the seafood department of some supermarkets. I bought it at Thrifty Foods.

Eric’s options: You can fill the eggs and set them on the platter hours before serving. Tent with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, topping them with the salmon, caviar and dill sprigs just before you do.

If you don’t wish to use the caviar, simply omit from the recipe and only garnish eggs with the salmon and dill sprigs.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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