Food & Dining
Dressed Eggs always a favorite
(Editor’s note: Amelia Adams, a Newnan resident and regular contributor to The Newnan Times-Herald’s Newnan-Coweta Magazine, shares thoughts on “Dressed Eggs.”)
Whenever a platter of deviled eggs makes its way to a designated table, onlookers appear to have been startled — magically. From across the room, men, deep in business conversations, stop mid-sentence in bounding toward them.
Ever curious about food origins, I discovered that these oblong orbs have been making their inroads since the Renaissance. Then, they were stuffed with spices we do not associate with them presently, raisins, cinnamon and such. Because the outcome in later centuries was often “hot stuff,” enough to companion the devil, these eggs received that label.
Another theory noted that many food preparations containing noteworthy mustard become deviled, as in crab or chicken. Most amusingly, when religion gained hold, especially in the South, Godfearin’ women disdained the “devil” descriptor and began calling them “stuffed” or “dressed.”
A Southern Foodways Alliance contributor tells an amusing story of his young son who surveyed an enormous number of eggs in his parents’ refrigerator. Seeking to aid his son, the father questioned, “See any dressed eggs?” “No, “the son replied, “but I see a whole lot of naked ones.”
Although we Southerners may think we coined this comfort food, the truth lies in its nationwide appeal, with some variations. While most readers will concur with mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper as standards, the most noteworthy additions are butter and saltines.
Pickles, I think, cause more controversy than any other ingredient: most eaters either like them or think they ruin a perfect stuffing. My family enjoyed pickle relish, while I am currently more of a purist in noting that fewer people seem to like the sweet add. If pickles are a preference, Wickles relish is a choice condiment. Just recently, I enjoyed magnificent eggs at Atlanta’s King + Duke, who included bits of country ham in the stuffing and tiny cubes of pickled celery and flecks of chive as garnish enriched by a bit of olive oil.
Quite a few decades ago, my son’s nurse Rosa Mae would have stuffed eggs ready when I returned from school. Her deviled eggs were better than my mama’s, never too creamy or spicy, perfect. Since the late sixties, I have used Rosa’s recipe as my base.
For the hard boiled eggs, I try to use those I have purchased the week before. I put a half dozen or more in a single layer of the sauce pan and cover the eggs completely, even extending the cold water an inch or more. Place the vessel then over high heat and bring the eggs to a boil. Immediately, I move them aside and allow the contents to stand for 12-15 minutes.
Drain off the hot water and shake the pan vigorously to crack the eggs. Cover the eggs with ice and a cup of water and allow cooling. I like to peel them as soon as I can as I think it prevents that gruesome grey tinge to emerge on the yolks. Cut towel dried eggs in half and mash the yolks with 2 tablespoons of mayo, 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard, 1 teaspoon of sour cream, a shake of Worcestershire and Tabasco; add salt and black pepper to taste. If the stuffing is not creamy enough, add more mayo. Dust with paprika.
When I am doing a larger quantity of eggs, I place the filling in the food processor, which makes the finest of purees. I then use a pastry bag to pipe the mixture into the whites. A swirl emerges, which I usually top with a caper. If I am doing several dozen eggs, I will vary the garnish: dill sprigs, caviar, or stuffed olive slices in addition to the capers.
At a church supper, bereavement lunch, or picnic location, a platter of deviled eggs signals “How you care for us.” Make some today for those who matter.