Easter is just around the corner, and along with bunnies, chocolate, religious observations, and colorful hats, everyone immediately thinks of eggs. Especially if hard-boiling and coloring for an Easter egg hunt, inevitably there will be extra eggs to do something with. Perhaps avoid using those eggs that have languished in the sunny yard until found by seeking children… but for the surplus there are hundreds of delicious recipes falling under the general “deviled egg” umbrella. No need to rely on the standard mustard and relish variety!
Before getting to the yummy part of this blog, as always, a bit of history. Why are they called DEVILED EGGS? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “deviled” as a culinary term entered the lexicon around 1786 to describe any fried or boiled dish that was highly seasoned. This does not necessarily mean hot or tangy, as we may think of it today. England was not normally known for using exotic spices, so any dish incorporating atypical seasoning might have been termed “deviled.” However, it soon came to be associated with spicy, peppered dishes or those which were condiment-filled, such as with mustard. Some sources claim ties to the devil, as in the sinful richness of such foods —including stuffed eggs— and the heated sensations engendered by spicy dishes being reminiscent of hell. While this sounds fanciful and a tad more spicy (pardon the pun!) there truly is no etymological connection to the ruler of the underworld.
As for deviled eggs —also called stuffed eggs, salad eggs, and dressed eggs— they have been around for centuries. A cookbook from 13th century Andalusian region of Spain suggests grinding boiled egg yolks with cilantro, onion juice, pepper, and coriander with a fermented fish sauce. In this recipe, the stuffed halves were then put together and held in place with a stick.
Long before this, ancient Romans served hard-boiled eggs seasoned with assorted spicy sauces at the beginning of meals. According to History.com: “Medieval cookbooks contain recipes for boiled eggs that were often filled with raisins, cheese and herbs such as marjoram, parsley and mint and then fried in oil and either topped with a sauce of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and raisins with verjuice (a tart juice made from unripe fruits) or powdered with sugar and served hot.”
As the previous quote alludes, it was most common to serve stuffed/deviled eggs immediately while still warm. Probably in large part due to good refrigeration not existing as we know it, which indeed effected the now-normal binding ingredient of mayonnaise. The first known publication to suggest mayonnaise in deviled egg’s filling was the 1896 Fanny Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cookbook.” Alas, until the 1940s when refrigeration became standard practice, mayonnaise wasn’t a commonly used condiment for or in anything, including deviled eggs.
When it comes to overall uses for a hard-boiled egg, there are literally thousands. Narrowing down to deviled eggs, the recipes still number in the hundreds of variations. A Google search will send one down a seriously deep rabbit hole, trust me on this! I confess to being an American purist with basic mayonnaise, a bit of mustard, heavy on the sweet pickle relish, and simple spices (salt, pepper, dill, paprika) being my favorite version. Quite honestly, until a few years ago I had no idea there were variations aside from the ratio of mustard to relish!
Are y’all hungry? Sure hope so!
Now I want to hear what your favorite recipes for deviled eggs are.
Share links to any awesome variations!
Speaking of eggs and Easter, if interested, last week over on my blog I posted a 5-part series on the incredible Fabergé Easter Eggs created for the Russian Imperial family. The series contains a brief history of the tradition begun by Tsar Alexander III and continued by Tsar Nicholas II, and a detailed breakdown (with lots of photos) of the 43 Imperial Eggs that have been recovered.