M: When I mention the Communal Skillet project to folks, they invariably respond by throwing out a list of Southern favorites. “So, like brunswick stew, collard greens, okra, pulled pork…” The list goes on and on. All decidedly Southern and most can be traced back to ingredients especially prevalent in, if not unique to, the South. But one that comes up as often as any and more than most is the deviled egg. Before moving South, I had no idea that deviled eggs are not only considered an undisputed part of Southern food culture, it is positively beloved. Recipes have been recited to me at every turn (my favorites usually include pickle juice or relish), fond tales of helping to make them at Easter as kids (it took me longer than I’m happy to admit to make the connection between deviled eggs and Easter), and it seems like everybody has those snazzy deviled egg platters that allow each egg to be safely nestled on the journey to pig pickin’s, picnics, family reunions… pretty much anywhere people get together. I’m still not exactly sure how they developed into such a staple distinctly in the South, but they sure as heck are. Not that I am complaining. I really do need to get one of those platters.
K: I’m not sure how they became what they are to us either, but I do know that they are the very first thing that I and my (girl)friends ever learned to make as part of our ‘life-skills’ education. My Grandmother may not have thought learning to balance my checkbook was an essential life skill, but by God I WOULD know how to make Deviled Eggs, Proper Iced Tea (sweet, of course), Biscuits, a decent Gravy, and the subtleties of which was appropriate to a given social situation. This was important because one never, ever showed up to a social event empty-handed, and it was important to be able to match the carry-along to the social environment. I have no idea what the boys were learning, but based on my later experiences, it likely had something to do with Master’s-level studies in flask concealment. My mother, thankfully, augmented this education with checkbook-balancing, typing (she was opposed to being asked to type my term-papers), and making a really, really good margarita, but it all started with the deviled egg.
M: Around my place, they get made with some regularity. I have a brood of chickens out in the back yard (something you will, without a doubt, hear more about as we encounter more egg recipes), so there are always plenty of eggs at hand. And I mean plenty. I give away more than I keep, but there is always a formidable supply at hand. Should the surplus get too great, deviled eggs are the ideal ace in the culinary hole. Other than the obvious (using up plenty of eggs), it is an especially good was to use up old eggs. Fresh eggs are tough to peel. But as they get older, the shell becomes more porous and the membrane pulls away from the shell, making peeling a snap. So when the eggs pile up, start boiling.
Unfortunately, this particular recipe was not for me. I was wary of the unusual addition of butter to the filling. The book indicates this adds a “rich heft” and stability to the mixture. Neither of these have ever been something I felt was missing, but I’m always game and gave it a shot. The result was a heavier filling than I’m looking for and a texture that was driven more by butter than egg. Not to my taste. Next time around, I’ll leave the butter in the fridge and stir in a little pickle juice. Old habits.
K: Yeah…I was not fond of the butter for this either. My Yankee test subjects didn’t seem to notice anything amiss, but they were So.Very.Excited to see deviled eggs (apparently, they are rare up here) that they inhaled them almost before I had a chance to ask for input. Everyone raved about them except me, so don’t let my reaction stop you from trying this. They were a HUGE hit with the crowd here, bless their hearts.
Recipe: Deviled Eggs
Summary: This unusual take on the hugely popular deviled egg includes butter. Doesn’t get much more Southern than that. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.
- 1 Dozen Eggs
- 1/4 c Mayonnaise
- 1/4 Dijon Mustard
- 1/2 Stick Butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- Salt and White Pepper
- Paprika, to garnish
- Place eggs in cold water in a large saucepan and bring to boil.
- Remove from heat and let rest 15 minutes before draining then rinsing under cold water.
- Peel eggs and cut in half, lengthwise.
- Remove yolks, then push yolks through a fine seive into a bowl.
- Add mayonnaise, mustard and butter to yolks and whip until smooth.
- Stir in lemon juice and cayenne.
- Add salt and white pepper to taste.
- Transfer yolk blend into a ziploc bag.
- Seal bag, snip a corner from bottm of bag and pipe filling into egg whites.
- Sprinkle with paprika.
- Chill until ready to serve.