In the next few weeks, many of us will have more eggs than we know how to eat. After a steady diet of hard-boiled eggs, egg salad and sliced eggs in salads, I know I always look forward to making some deviled eggs.
My husband, Dirk, adores deviled eggs, but until recently, I never attempted to make them. His mother’s eggs were the standard to which I needed to aspire. And like trying to re-create her fried chicken, why would I bother when the star chef was nearby? But when we moved full time to Taos from the Washington, D.C., area and away from my mother-in-law’s table, I’ve had to test and perfect her recipes to duplicate them at home.
Invariably, when I ask my mother-in-law to share one of her recipes, she tells me that there isn’t one. “I just keep adding things and tasting until it tastes right.” However, I want her recipes – in writing.
Not wanting to be too pushy, I made my first batch according to her verbal recipe. I mashed the egg yolks with some mayonnaise, a little yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Season-All. Then I filled the egg whites using a teaspoon and sprinkled them with paprika. I thought they were lumpy and bland. Dirk thought they were perfect. I think he didn’t want to discourage me.
When some friends asked me to bring deviled eggs to a dinner party, I jumped at the chance to experiment, both with the recipe and the technique.
After peeling and drying the eggs on paper towels, I placed the yolks into the food processor with some mayonnaise, some turmeric, some dry mustard, some salt, freshly ground pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce. I pulsed the mixture until it was smooth enough to please me.
I did not own a deviled egg plate, so I got out a beautiful handmade ceramic platter made by a local potter named Miya, who lives in Dixon, New Mexico. The two dozen egg halves fit snugly within its deep confines and patiently awaited the filling. I pulled out my mechanical pastry tube, attached a large decorating tip to one end and the plunger apparatus to the other and filled it up with the egg yolk mixture. I gently squeezed the plunger and began to fill the shells with lovely egg yolk stars. When I was finished, I decorated half the eggs with small pieces of smoked bacon and the other half with small dollops of red caviar. They were beautiful.
I lightly covered the platter with plastic wrap. As we left for the party, I carefully carried the platter myself to ensure its safety. When I opened the back door of our Ford Explorer, I saw that the back seat was sloped and on an angle. So thinking the eggs should be level, I reached for the handle to adjust the back of the seat.
Instead of reclining, the seat back plunged forward and knocked the platter out of my hands. All the eggs landed on the floor of the back seat. For a moment, I thought of the five-second rule and wondered if I could quickly salvage them. And I kicked myself because I hadn’t allowed Dirk to taste even one. What a mess!
Dirk immediately jumped in and tried to scrape the eggs up off the floor.
“Look,” he said, beaming as he lifted the platter and flipped it back over. Three eggs were still edible, as they had been caught by the food wrap. He handed me the caviar egg, and he popped one of the bacon eggs into his mouth. “Oh, my God,” he said. “These are delicious – better than my mother’s!”
But I had other worries. “What am I going to bring to the party now?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I think the story of the two dozen deviled eggs you already made is enough.”
Perhaps I never should have messed with my mother-in-law’s recipe. This may have been my comeuppance! A good friend of mine reassuringly tells me that sometimes these things are just good luck. Later that night, I discovered that my Miya platter had cracked. I guess that was some sort of good luck, too. At least the eggs made for a good story at the party, and I had the photos to prove it.
Just recently, I received a request to bring “Lucy’s famous deviled eggs” to another dinner party. By now, I do own a deviled egg platter. I relished the chance to tweak my recipe a little.
“Dirk,” I asked, “how would you feel if I added a dot of Sriracha sauce?”
Dirk looked directly at me and said, “No. I like them the way you made them before. Why do you want to change things? Sometimes you should just stick with a recipe!”
“Hmmm,” I thought. “If only I actually had a recipe!”
And although I made a sample with Sriracha for him to taste, which he liked, I realized he was right. Sometimes a “recipe” is perfect just the way it is.