Sometimes, the devil is in the details. And sometimes, those details might be beets. Or bacon bits. Or green onions, red peppers, wasabi paste or pieces of popcorn.
Deviled eggs have moved way beyond traditional, and that’s good news for cooks who are about to be stuck with colored hard-boiled eggs that lose their appeal about the time the Peeps start to go crunchy.
“People love deviled eggs,” said Kathy Casey, a Seattle-based chef and author of “D’Lish Deviled Eggs: A Collection of Recipes from Creative to Classic.” “Snazzy restaurants serve them. Church potlucks serve them. There is a giant range of people who love them.”
A classic deviled egg – a mayo/mustard-based yolk filling inside the white of a hard-boiled egg – is often one of the first things to disappear off a party platter. While people aren’t tiring of the old, they aren’t settling for it either.
At Karben4 Brewing on the East Side, deviled eggs have been on the appetizer menu since the brewery started running its kitchen. Eight eggs in four flavors make up the appetizer – a classic-style, and three rotating flavored fillings.
“It’s one of the items that will never go off the menu,” said Ben Jackson, Karben4’s tap room manager.
The current offerings at Karben4 are a sweet and spicy mix made with cranberries and peppadew peppers, as well as ham, maple and Sriracha sauce, and avocado-cumin. The eggs are served with salt, pepper or crushed red pepper on the board to dip them in.
The most popular egg, Jackson said, has been a maple bacon Sriracha, with maple Sriracha sauce and cooked, chopped bacon. The restaurant uses the same base filling — essentially making mayonnaise but adding salt, pepper, sugar and Dijon mustard — and adds other flavors to it.
Karben4 isn’t alone. Deviled eggs are also on the menu at other spots including Graze, Heritage Tavern, the Old Fashioned and Bonfyre Grill. They’re a popular item on catering and banquet menus from the Esquire Club to Schwoegler’s Lanes. Fresco’s catering offers truffle deviled eggs, Whole Foods catering offers them in three flavors – classic, curry and pesto.
Casey has two food stores at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport called Dish D’Lish, and sometimes sells deviled eggs in six-packs there.
“They’re pretty labor intensive for a grab-and-go food, but they just fly off the shelves when we have them,” Casey said.
Casey got the idea for the book when she had to bring food to a party and, being a chef, brought deviled eggs almost as a joke. She had added some chipotle peppers to the filling when she found some of those at home.
“Then it became, ‘What kind are you bringing now?’” she said as the “joke” soon became a signature dish for her. “They are always the most popular thing at a party.”
Casey has more than 50 deviled egg recipes in her book, including four “classic” recipes that vary the standard recipe just a bit. She has some that are suited for a brunch, with steak, bacon or cheddar cheese or inspired by Bloody Marys, French toast or eggs Benedict. Game-day might be a time to serve Red-Hot Buffalo or Southwest Salsa deviled eggs. A deviled egg such as the All-American Potato Salad might work well for Fourth of July, and spring vegetables can be featured with Emerald Asparagus and Sweet Onion deviled eggs. Those that call for mushrooms can take advantage when morels come in season.
“I find that people really love the new crazy fun ones,” Casey said. “I really wanted to put something for everybody and something for all different kinds of events.”
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All the flavors in the world won’t help if a few basics aren’t done right – particularly the boiled egg. Casey said it’s important to not use fresh eggs, to wait about two weeks before boiling them if they’re purchased from a farmers’ market or about a week from a grocery store.
Casey’s technique is to put eggs and water in a pan and bring it to a boil, then removing the pan, covering it and letting the eggs sit for 15 minutes, then running cold water over them. Overcooking them, she said, gives them a green color and a sulfurous taste.
Kareben4 makes about five dozen at a time and uses a different technique – 11 minutes boiling, then a shock of cold water to cool them.
“We’ve found a system that works for us,” Jackson said.
Karben4 uses restaurant, industrial mixers and equipment. Most cooks at home just use forks or mixers, Casey said, and the key is to get the filling smooth enough. She also suggests using a potato ricer. For placing the filling, cake decorating bags and piping bags and tips work well to give the egg a more appealing look.
At Karben4, the eggs are served on a platter, so the staff doesn’t have the same issue that challenges home cooks — transporting the eggs.
While the ingredients can be made in advance, the eggs shouldn’t be put together until as close to serving time as possible. If it’s possible to finish them on site, Casey said, the whites can be packaged separately and the filling can go in a piping bag closed by rubber bands, or even a zip-top plastic bag that then gets a bottom tip cut off.
Casey’s book also has another recipe and a template for making batches larger than the dozen eggs her other recipes call for, and to help them travel better.
“That recipe has a little bit of butter in it,” she said. “Butter in the yolks firms up the filling a little bit for transporting it.”
The toppings, which Casey likes to call “the business” should go on as late as possible to keep their texture.
“I love having ‘the business’ on top of the egg,” she said. “It’s crunchy, textural fun stuff on there. It adds a nice mouth feel.”
Casey’s “business” ranges from clams, to celery leaves, olives, crumbled cheese, potatoes, peppers, onions and even crabmeat, fish roe and seaweed for a sushi-inspired deviled eggs.
“You can really turn any of your favorite things into deviled eggs,” she said.
That’s how the staff at Karben4 feels, too. They expect to make some new discoveries in the coming months and Jackson doesn’t see why home cooks don’t try that, too.
“Think outside the box,” he said. “If you have anything you want to get rid of, try it. What can it hurt? And if it doesn’t work, don’t do it again.”