Some topics are taboo around the holiday buffet table, but when it comes to voicing the best policy on certain recipes, no holds are barred. This includes deviled eggs. The popular side dish has its die-hard followers who pledge authority to their tried and true recipe. “Yes” to mayonnaise? “No” to mustard? Just what is the best method of making deviled eggs? I reached out to Olympia chefs and their professional culinary partners to see how they approach making this appealing appetizer.

No matter what recipe, they all start with the eggs. From there, the possibilities are endless. Is the classic method best? The famous Julia Child took the route of using butter and sweet pickles. Her recipe recommends using a chilled knife dipped in water to slice your eggs. This works! It leaves a clean edge. No drag. Ah, chef advice. Whether they are brown or white eggs, boiling them requires attentiveness. To avoid an overboil, set a timer. How long?

“For me timing and an ice bath when they are done to stop the cooking process is key,” says Jeremy Glenn, chef at McMenamins Spar Cafe in Olympia. “I put the eggs in cold water with a little white vinegar (helps them peel), bring to a rolling boil then cover and remove from heat. Set timer for 12 minutes and then immediately put them in the ice bath. Leave them in the ice for approximately 30 minutes to cool before peeling. As for my filling, I am pretty traditional with the exception of the paprika. I use smoked paprika as it adds a subtle smokiness to the dish.”

This traditional hors d’oeuvre has many variations. Serving eggs as a delicacy dish goes back thousands of years, and these little snacks have a whole history behind their name. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

Adding a few perks to the basic ingredients sometimes gives them a kick, like specialty mustards, crispy sprinkles of bacon or maybe a tasty decorative sprig of something green on top. The stuffing we know so well, mayonnaise and mustard filling, is only as new as the 20th century with mayo gaining its popularity in the 1940s. The Romans served boiled eggs before meals, sprucing them up with oils, vinegars and honey. The middle ages left behind a recipe of peahen eggs stuffed with poultry meat previously marinated in egg yolk. In a 15th century European book, yolks were pounded with raisins and goat cheese, then fried in oil. So, the stuffing craze is long lived.

Today’s variations reinforce the practice and inspire us to change it up when it comes to this familiar appetizer. Whether it’s guacamole stuffing, beets or red pepper filling, or jalapenos and cilantro on top, the combinations are numerous. Time and experience tell us what works best for our own creations.

Stuffing eggs with guacamole and adding a little cilantro is a deviation from the traditional but still a way to dress up the buffet table. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

“I have been back of the house prior to becoming a restaurant manager and have made my fair share of deviled eggs for family and banquet events back in my hotel days,” says Kyle Ann Radanovic general manager Anthony’s Homeport in Olympia. “I have found if you are adding any flavor to the mix, that it isn’t a big deal on the mayonnaise that you use. When I want to be creative, I tend to head to the mustard aisle in the grocery store or the specialty mustard booth at a farmers market.  My last batch, I made with a black truffle stone ground mustard and topped with a square of crisp peppered bacon and sprig of chive. I tend to add enough mayo, mustard and spices to have left over mix to put in a bowl for people to spread onto crackers as well.”

Got a variety of guest tastes? Perhaps a topping bar for your half shell eggs. Let people decide what they like. Got vegan and vegetarian guests? Good news! The vegan version of this dish is made from small potatoes, halved and scooped of their centers, much like a tiny twice-baked potato. Vegan mayonnaise, which tastes much like the original, can be a binding agent for the tofu and whipped, mashed potato filling. Add sprinkles of paprika, some chives and voila.

Adding roasted red peppers to the deviled egg stuffing mix is just one of many combinations. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

Whatever your rendition, deviled eggs have a welcome spot on any holiday dinner table, year-round. According to a McCormick survey, 61% of Americans plan to make deviled eggs for an Eastertime dinner. The survey also indicated how many preferred bacon, or paprika or exotic such as avocado and crab meat.

Let’s face it, for many of us, the deviled eggs are the primary reason why we visit the table at a holiday party. They are a yummy, can’t eat just one, hors d’oeuvre. Serving eggs as a delicacy dish goes back thousands of years, and these little snacks have a whole history behind their name. None of it matters when we are eyeing them though. We want to know they were made just like we like them, so we can eat them. With a nod and wink, you will know what your best way is, but perhaps you’ll venture to try a new ingredient…one day.

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