Each year in December we look at the calendar and wonder how we will ever manage to accomplish all of the shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, and giving that we want to before the new year. A flurry of holiday parties help keep the the season merry, but when hosting, it helps to have a menu that can be assembled quickly and in advance. By serving a spread of make-ahead appetizers and desserts, you’re cutting down on your hours in the kitchen before the guests arrive, giving you time to build that perfect holiday music play-list or discreetly hang some mistletoe.
One of my favorite make-ahead appetizers is the classic deviled egg. In its simplest form, or dressed up in any number of flavor combinations, the deviled egg is so popular in America that special platters and carriers are sold to accommodate their unique shape.
Early versions of the dish, which dates back to ancient Rome, called for the eggs to be stuffed with a combination of raisins, cheese, and sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves. By the 1600’s the filling had turned savory, with flavors like mustard and pepper. So what makes deviled eggs worthy of their wicked name? During the 1800’s the word “deviled” was use to describe any dish that had a spicy kick, and the cayenne pepper added to “stuffed” eggs did the job nicely.
Because they are such a popular “take-along” dish, deviled eggs are also sometimes referred to as picnic eggs or dressed eggs, especially when brought to church functions, where the term “devil” is best left behind. Sinful or not, making deviled eggs today is easy. After your eggs are hard boiled and peeled, slice them lengthwise and prepare the filling. Today’s traditional filling is made with the hard-boiled egg yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, and paprika. I like a little crunch in my deviled eggs, so I add finely diced celery and red onion.
If you aren’t serving the eggs immediately, prepare the filling, then store it in a zip-top bag along with the eggs in the fridge overnight or until you are ready to pipe it into the egg whites.
When ready to serve, snip the tip of the bag and pipe into the eggs. Sprinkle with paprika to garnish, and you are ready to set out a platter of crowd-pleasing deviled eggs!
Methods vary, but to hard-boil the eggs, I put enough water in a pan to cover the eggs by a few inches, then bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, I carefully add the eggs using a slotted spoon, then boil the eggs for ten minutes. After ten minutes, I remove the pan from the heat, and immediately transfer the eggs (again with the slotted spoon) to a bowl of cold water for fifteen minutes, or until the eggs are cool. If you don’t cool the eggs down right away, the yolks will develop a green color on the outside.
Are your cooked eggs tough to peel? Older eggs are easier to peel than fresh eggs, so save your fresh eggs for frying, and use your older eggs for boiling.