My friend, Leigh Anne, is a fearsome creature. She’s Southern through and through. The daughter of a widely known extension agent, she grew up in the 4-H community and was a guidance counselor at Rock Eagle, the 4-H camp in Eatonton, Georgia, for many years. She went on to become a nurse with a speciality in neurology. If you present in the emergency room with a head injury you got while on psychedelic drugs on a Saturday night, she will strap you down and straighten you out until a doctor can treat you. While she was doing all this nursing, she managed to find time to be president of the Junior League of Athens, along with being a single mother.
Leigh Anne is the one who taught me the Junior League trick of tilting your head and nodding when you are talking to somebody you’re mad at — or who’s mad at you. When my first husband was dying from brain cancer, she and our friend, Laura, dropped everything to help me get him into hospice, and then they got me through his funeral. Leigh Anne is tough as nails.
Leigh Anne isn’t much of a cook, though. She is less of a cook than I am. Leigh Anne used her oven as a place to store her blankets in over the summer. So yeah, I’m a better cook than Leigh Anne. Leigh Anne won one of my deviled egg plates last year, and she was just tickled. My first thought when she won the giveaway was delight, and then my thoughts darkened with memories of polyester fleece on oven racks. What on earth was she going to do with a deviled egg plate? Since I hand-delivered hers, I sent her an extra large one that could double as a chips and dip tray. To my surprise, it turns out she likes making deviled eggs, but they often turn out too runny, which was not a surprise.
I believe I can help her.
Who Needs a Recipe?
I have a very short list of dishes that I do well, none of which came from an actual recipe. I’m not a big fan of recipes. I find recipes tedious and generally look at them as guidelines for my grander creative ambitions. This approach has not served me well over the years. That’s why my adventures with Ernest Matthew Mickler’s White Trash Cooking have been so fun. The recipes are simple and down-to-earth. I follow them and they actually work.
I know how to make deviled eggs blindfolded. I am always surprised when people tell me that they can’t make deviled eggs and that they want my recipe. I tell them it’s eggs, mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, salt, pepper and anything else you think might taste good. Paprika on top always gives them a more finished look, but really isn’t necessary. It’s a lot easier to sprinkle on paprika than adorn each deviled egg with a tiny sprig of dill. That’s just time you can’t get back.
People often appear puzzled when I tell them how to make deviled eggs. They want to know things like measurements and proportions. These are things I cannot offer. I can, however, show you how I do it and send you on your way. Deviled eggs should be an expression of one’s own individuality. You must find your own voice.
The first step is steaming the eggs in a vegetable basket. After many years of struggling with pockmarked whites caused by the shells sticking to my boiled eggs, I have found that steaming them for about 17 minutes, followed by an ice bath, lets the eggshells slip off effortlessly under running water.
After you cut the eggs in half, put the yolks in a mixing bowl. This is where the magic begins. You need to eyeball the mound of yolks and add a dollop of mayonnaise that is slightly smaller than your mound of egg yolks. I prefer Blue Plate, but I know there are many who favor Dukes. Miracle Whip is for communists and should be avoided at all costs.
Treat Your Pickles Right
Then you add some chopped pickles. Some people buy pickle relish, but I consider the price for a jar to be highway robbery. You can make your own by dumping some pickles and the juice in a blender and running it until the pieces are small enough for your tastes. I prefer dill pickles, but some prefer sweet pickles. You get to choose.
Here’s where I think Leigh Anne gets her runny eggs. You have to drain the pickles really well before adding them. I usually put them in a strainer and let them drain for about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a strainer, you can scoop them out with a fork into a tiny bowl and then only take the pickles from the top. You want dry pickles in your deviled eggs. Add a heaping spoonful of your dry pickles to the bowl.
Add some salt and pepper. You can also add powdered garlic and onion if you like. You can add what ever you want. They are your eggs.
Add a little mustard. I usually use dry mustard, but I used regular mustard here, because I know Leigh Anne has this in her kitchen.
Mix all of this together until smooth. I prefer a whisk, but plenty of deviled eggs have gotten made in the South just using a fork. If the mixture if too thick, add a little more mayonnaise.
This is the point where you want to taste the mixture. Does is taste good to you? If the answer is yes, stop and fill your egg whites. If not, add something.
I have always found filling the eggs to be the most tedious part. I got tired of doing each one by hand, so I used to fill a pastry bag with a standard open tip to finish the eggs. That makes pretty eggs. I recently lost that tip and the pickles get stuck in all my fancy tips used for icing. I have found that using a sandwich bag with a small hole cut in one corner is pretty efficient.
Once you have the eggs filled and arranged on the plate, you can add some paprika or Italian herbs or nothing at all. You choose. And don’t look at Pinterest for guidance. Pinterest only adds to the crisis of confidence when it comes to deviled eggs.
At the end of the day, nobody cares what your deviled eggs look like. They just care that they taste good and that you loved them enough to make them. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
If you want to win the deviled egg plate in this picture, go to https://downsouth.house/blogs/news/february-2021-deviled-egg-plate-giveaway. This giveaway ends on February 28, 2021!