Thursday, November 22, 2007

deviled eggs

None of my family's holiday dinners was ever complete without deviled eggs, displayed on a large, round glass plate with indentations for each egg. The tradition came from my father's side of the family, but Mom was quick to learn, and she made sure that our egg plate was filled with beautifully garnished eggs at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Almost all of us in my family have made deviled eggs. But it was Dad who won the prize for making them for the most people at one time.

"We've got too many eggs in the food supplies. We'll be serving eggs to the sailors at every meal. I can hear the mutiny of complaints already," the naval officer addressed the sailors assigned to kitchen patrol. His face became redder with each sentence. "Any bright ideas for using up these eggs?" he barked.

There was silence, until one sailor stepped forward hesitantly, cleared his throat and said, "Sir, I, ah, we could make deviled eggs, sir." His black curly hair stood out against the white of his uniform. He lowered his hazel eyes and stepped back to his position.

The young sailor, who had the courage to speak up with a plan, was my father. He was often intimidated by people in authority, but in this case, he believed in his family's traditions and his mother's cooking. He got the go-ahead from the officer, and the sailors on KP scurried around to locate huge kettles in which to boil the eggs.

Dad and the cooks peeled the boiled eggs, cut them in half and separated the yolks from the whites. Using what he could remember from his mother's recipe, Dad added ingredients to the egg yolks and mixed until smooth. Everyone helped spoon the mixture into the egg whites.

As they worked, Dad asked, "Any paprika or green olives on board ship?" One cook returned moments later with both items, and Dad, alternating a sprinkle of paprika with a slice of olive with pimento, decorated the eggs, which he presented to the officer.

"They look good, Pitzer, but how do they taste?" The officer slid one into his mouth.

Dad shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "I hope, ah, I hope you like it, sir."

The officer reached for another and gave Dad a relieved smile, "These are great, really great! Where'd you learn to make them?"

"My mother," Dad responded. "They're a favorite with my family on holidays back on the farm, sir." The eggs were a big hit with both officers and shipmates alike, and Dad was the hero of the day.

Within my own family, Mom prepared the deviled eggs for holidays until Alzheimer's disease curtailed her ability to cook. Then I became the deviled egg maker. Today, as the date for a get-together approaches, a friend or relative asks, "You'll bring your deviled eggs, won't you?"

At a recent Thanksgiving celebration with friends, I set my deviled eggs on the festively decorated table. After dinner, as we cleared away the dishes, a little red-headed boy with freckles across his nose approached me hesitantly. He lowered his blue eyes and said with a shy smile, "Gloria, you make the betht egth in the whole wide world!"

"Thank you," I responded. "I'm glad you like them. My father liked them, too, and he made sure we had them at every Thanksgiving dinner. Once he made them for a shipload of sailors. I often make them for a house full of friends."

If you're looking for something meaningful to say over today's feast -- or seeking to keep the kids busy while you beat the lumps from the gravy -- check out Freedom's Feast, a free, downloadable program of Thanksgiving facts, classic songs and readings from America's founding documents. A Maryland philanthropist, Lee Meyerhoff Hendler, has a mission of making Thanksgiving a moment to reflect on what it means to be an American and to teach kids more about civic history. The program was given a National Parenting Publication Award and has been in Scholastic's Instructor magazine. Go to

Eating our words

Here's something to toss out over the Brussels sprouts: The New Oxford American Dictionary's 2007 Word of the Year is ... locavore. This describes the movement that champions buying from farmers markets or growing your own food. The idea is that local food needs less fuel for shipping, tastes better and retains its nutrients. Oxford editor Ben Zimmer said the word gained the honor by "bringing together eating and ecology in a new way." Locavore was coined two years ago by some San Francisco women who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within 100 miles of home. Last year's Word of the Year was another "green" term, carbon neutral.

More feast trivia

Yahoo! has been kind enough to provide some Thanksgiving trivia, perhaps something to utter when the tryptophan kicks in. To wit: Its top search is for sweet potato recipes, but deviled eggs -- deviled eggs! -- come in at No. 7. Searches for "turducken," a deboned chicken within a deboned duck within a deboned turkey, have risen 530 percent this year, most of the queries originating in California.

For all of those leftovers

If nothing less than cutting-edge technology will do for your leftovers, then check out the Frisper Freshkeeper, a vacuum sealer from Oliso that just received Popular Science magazine's Best of What's New Award in the Home Technology category. The product must "represent a significant step forward in its category in order to win," according to the magazine, which features other "Best ofs" in its December issue. The Frisper Freshkeeper uses professional-grade bags with reclosable tops, which are sealed with a contraption that looks like a giant computer mouse. It sells for $99.99 through, and at Linens N Things, Sharper Image and Kitchen Window stores in Minnesota.
You know how I always tell you Don't Bet On It!? Well, really, seriously, no kidding around, Don't Bet On It!

I mean, I was 2-3 in my S.E.C. predictions last weekend, which dropped me to 57-20 for the season in conference forecasts and provided as strong a cautionary tale as you could ever want, so I am dispensing with additional disclaimers for the moment and moving straight into this week's equally suspect picks.

My luck with making prognostications has been heading downhill ever since I predicted that the Van Halen reunion would work out well.

All games are being played on Saturday, November 24, unless otherwise indicated. These are the Southeastern Conference contests not involving the Red and Black:

Wake Forest at Vanderbilt: What ought to be the championship round of quiz bowl actually has the potential to be a football game of some consequence. The defending A.C.C. champion Demon Deacons are struggling to retain their respectability and hoping in vain to demonstrate that last year's conference title was no fluke, while the Commodores are down to their last chance to qualify for their first postseason berth in a quarter of a century. Although I share MaconDawg's aggravation with Vandy field goal kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt, I'm still pulling for the Commies to get the win that gets them to bowl eligibility. Maybe I'm letting sentimentality get the better of me, but I'm taking the Commodores to get the victory and reap their hard-earned reward. Wouldn't it be great to see Vanderbilt's players pack their bags, board a bus, and take a road trip to Nashville for the Music City Bowl? Hey, wait a minute. . . .

hand the game to the other squad on a silver salver. (By the way, I love that the Egg Bowl is being played on the day after Thanksgiving, as the term "Egg Bowl" always reminds me of the holiday gathering at which there were two bowls of deviled eggs and no one in the family was willing to be impolite enough to eat the last deviled egg in either bowl, until my uncle wisely put both deviled eggs into the same bowl so that one of them would not go to waste and whichever relative wound up eating it would not appear rude . . . but I digress.) Sylvester Croom and Ed Orgeron (neither of whom, despite their names, is a character from The Lord of the Rings) seemed to enter this season on equally thin ice, but Sly shrewdly improved his situation with wins over Alabama, Auburn, and Kentucky, whereas the Ogre has persisted in giving that whole "losing consistently" thing a go, presumably to lower expectations for future seasons. While I believe the Rebels will make a game of it, in the end, I have to think home pasture field advantage and postseason positioning will enable the Bulldogs to defeat their in-state rival. Oh, man, are there going to be some cowbells rung on Friday night!

Clemson at South Carolina: The biggest question concerning this game is whether either team will be focused fully on its local opponent. After all, the Gamecocks will be looking ahead to their rematch with L.S.U. in the Georgia Dome as the S.E.C. East representative and the Tigers will be concentrating on their upcoming date in Jacksonville with the winner of the Virginia-Virginia Tech game . . . oh, wait. My bad. It turns out that the victor in this contest ought to be awarded the Heimlich Trophy for winning the annual Battle of the Big-Time Choke Artists. The Palmetto State Poultry appear to have nothing left in the tank and the Fort Hill Felines have the special incentive of wanting to keep their head coach gainfully employed, so I'm going with Clemson to corral the Fighting Fowl in Columbia.

how much fun this rivalry used to be back when Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier were coaching? What's that? Bobby Bowden is still at Florida State . . . and Steve Spurrier is coaching at South Carolina? That can't be right, can it?

Arkansas at Louisiana State (Friday, November 23): Every time I think about this game, it makes me sad, for it represents the end of an era. This almost certainly will be Houston Nutt's final regular-season game with the Razorbacks and Les Miles's final regular-season game with the Bayou Bengals, as the former's firing and the latter's departure for Michigan appear to be as foregone as conclusions can be. No more will I have the pleasure of comparing Houston Nutt's sideline demeanor to that of a Pentecostal minister preaching a tent revival with a rattlesnake in each hand while high on crystal meth and being jabbed in the rear end with a cattle prod; no longer will I be afforded the opportunity to mock Les Miles for being the Chance the Gardener of college coaching or for his many failures along the way in his ongoing quest to find a cap that doesn't make him look like an eleven-year-old and a headset that doesn't make him look like a Time-Life operator standing by to receive your magazine subscription by telephone. Once these two bastions of zaniness and cluelessness, respectively, have left the building, what will we be left with in the S.E.C.? The league will have only the likes of Phillip Fulmer, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Tommy Tuberville to represent it. The conference will be hallmarked by quality and competence, and where's the fun in that? I implore you, therefore, to take the time to watch this game, as the final battle of the Lunatic with the Idiot will be a sight to see. Enjoy it while you can as L.S.U. outduels Arkansas before both head coaches shake hands for the final time.

Tennessee at Kentucky: Please. Please. Please. Please please please please please. Please please please please please. Pretty please with sugar (which you can't spell without . . . oh, nevermind; you know) on top. Please, please, and please again. Please times a million. Please! Go Wildcats!

Honestly, I mostly just want to see anybody wearing this much orange lose; the fact that a Volunteer loss would give Georgia a shot at an S.E.C. championship is just gravy.

If I'm wrong about half of those picks, I'll be surprised (especially since there was an odd number of games being forecast). In any case, though, my predictions this season have been sufficiently ill-fated that, even before we get to my atrocious national prognostications, you ought to know better than to take a word of the foregoing the least bit seriously. Whatever you do, therefore, please . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!

was Thanksgiving morning, the turkey was in the oven, the soup simmering on the back of the stove, the vegetables prepped and ready to go, the pies lined up on the counter, and the guests due to arrive in a few short hours. Everything was good to go, but wait, something was missing.
The bowls of nuts, olives and breadsticks set out to nibble on with drinks before dinner looked a little lonely. The app menu needed something a bit more stellar. But what? Then I remembered deviled eggs.

When I was researching popular egg dishes for my cookbook "The Good Egg," I came upon a section in "James Beard's American Cookery" titled Eggs for Cocktails. In his introduction to the recipes Beard wrote, "If you have taken care to observe at a cocktail party, nothing disappears as quickly as the stuffed eggs."

For most people, stuffed eggs mean deviled eggs. The term "deviled" was supposedly first used to describe a spicy dish by Washington Irving in his 1820 "The Sketch Book." When applied to eggs, deviled means that the yolks of halved hard-cooked eggs are mashed with mayonnaise and spiced up with cayenne or Tabasco, mustard, a drop or two of vinegar, a bit of salt and then stuffed back into the whites. At one time I only associated deviled eggs with picnic baskets and summer meals. But not anymore.

So I got to work, and discovered Mr. Beard was right. With a glass of Champagne in one hand, our friends reached for the deviled eggs with the other. They reached, and reached,



and reached, until all the eggs were gone and the platter was empty. Brilliant, Mr. Beard.
In the Eggs for Cocktails section, Beard gives recipes for his version of deviled eggs, which he dubs Pungent Eggs (he adds grated raw onion), plus about a half-dozen other fillings for stuffed eggs, including an exotic-sounding mixture of yolk mashed with sour cream and folded with caviar, and another for a mixture of softened blue cheese and cognac combined with the yolk and stuffed back into the whites.

When I was developing recipes for my book, these tempting variations sent my creative juices into orbit. I was into culinary excess -- having already concocted more than a dozen versions -- when I finally came to my senses and remembered I was writing just one chapter on the stuffed egg, not an entire book.

Of all the recipes I developed, my favorites are the versions that use substitutions for the more typical mayonnaise that is mashed into the yolk. For instance, in the recipe for the Italian stuffed eggs, the yolk is beaten with drizzles of olive oil. For the avocado and jalapeno stuffed eggs, the yolk is mashed with avocado. In the recipe for goat cheese and herb stuffed eggs, softened fresh goat cheese and sweet butter are blended with the yolk.

For me, the most difficult thing about making stuffed eggs is deciding which ingredients to add to the yolk. Sometimes I do the standard deviled egg recipe using Mr. Beard's version as a guide, but other times I get more creative and turn to one of the many variations I developed for "The Good Egg."

When serving the stuffed eggs with drinks before a heavy meal -- such as Thanksgiving dinner -- it makes sense to ration the servings. In my experience, as in Mr. Beard's, most folks will eat the stuffed eggs until they're gone. Not that you want to deprive your guests, but the eggs are rich. Typically, two halves -- or one egg -- per person is more than enough.

I also don't recommend waiting to the last minute to prepare the eggs. The advantage of serving deviled eggs, or stuffed eggs, is that the eggs can be boiled and peeled hours, or up to a day, before serving. Then a few hours before serving, cut them in half and press the yolks through a sieve (cold yolks are difficult to mash), add seasonings, and stuff the whites. Arrange the stuffed eggs on a platter and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until about 1 hour before serving. They taste better if they aren't icy cold from the refrigerator.

Then pop the Champagne cork and watch the eggs disappear.

Easy hard-boiled eggs

Buy the eggs about 1 week ahead, because older eggs are easier to peel than eggs that are fresh from the hen.

Let the eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover generously with cold water and heat to a gentle boil over medium heat. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water, tightly covered, for 10 minutes.

Pour off the hot water and rinse the eggs with cold running water until they are cool enough to handle. Then gently rap each egg on a work surface to make a crack in the shell. Return the cracked eggs to the cold water. The water will seep under the shell and help loosen it from the set whites.

When it comes time to peel the eggs, it sometimes helps to gently roll the egg on the counter, making small cracks in the shell, and then holding it under the water while gently peeling off the shells.
Parmesan Stuffed Eggs with Toasted Walnuts

Makes 8 servings

1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, chopped walnuts

8 large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and halved lengthwise

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Minced fresh parsley, a torn basil leaf, or some thin-sliced chive or scallion

1. Place the walnuts in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small plate to cool.

2. Carefully remove the yolks from the whites. Arrange the whites on a serving platter. If they roll over, cut a sliver from the rounded side to help keep them upright. Place the yolks in a medium-sized strainer set over a mixing bowl. Press the yolks through the strainer, pressing with a rubber spatula. Stir in the cheese. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the oil 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is light and fluffy. You may not need all of the oil. Fold in 1/3 cup of the walnuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Using two teaspoons, carefully stuff the whites with the yolk mixture, using the second teaspoon to clean off the first spoon and mounding the stuffing in each white. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining walnuts and garnish with the herb of choice.


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