The Magic Kingdom of deviled eggs

IMG_0454I had heard of this spot for years; read articles and seen TV segments about it, and emailed with its creator. As a deviled eggs master, it was my destiny to make a pilgrimage, and I finally did.

Marie Lawrence invited me into the deviled egg room – it’s floor to ceiling full of the servers. The latest count is 915. Marie is going for 1,000 and maybe a Guinness record. Like snowflakes, no two in her collection are exactly alike; she keeps a record book with descriptions, dates she acquired them and other information to make sure.

After 15 years of collecting, her cooperative husband Donald’s handmade shelves are stuffed so full that the plates have begun to spill over into glass cases in the living room of their Morehead City home. They want to do something about that, maybe add on. The center of the display

the newest plate in the collection

the newest plate in the collection

room has barely enough open space for a chicken to make a nest. But it’s enough room for Marie to start the day with a smile, surrounded by color, enjoying her efforts.

“When I first got started, I used to have a rocking chair in here and I would just sit and enjoy them,” she says. “Now, I stand here in the morning with a cup of coffee.”

All those plates have to make you smile, with their hues, shapes, bunny faces and dancing chicks.  A yellow one that a friend bought for Marie on a Disney cruise ship is shaped like Mickey’s face and ears. How appropriate, because this little place is like a Magic Kingdom.

The first plate she got, that started it all, is unusual. It’s bowl-shaped, with a goose head at

more from the 915 plates

more from the 915 plates

the left side and spots for just six eggs on the right. She thinks it was meant to also serve potato salad or egg salad with the deviled eggs. The newest in the collection, which a friend found at a Salvation Army thrift shop a couple of weeks ago, resembles a basket of tulips with 12 oval pink, purple and yellow sections for the eggs.

Naturally, Easter, bunnies and chickens are predominant themes. There are a lot of Christmas ones, too, but even some with Thanksgiving and Irish looks. One of the largest is an Italian plate with spaces for deviled eggs and antipasto that could double as a centerpiece. The smallest looks like a covered ceramic bowl small enough to fit in your palm. Remove the lid, and there are spaces for two eggs – sort of like tea for two.

There’s a plate shaped like an oak leaf with acorn salt-and-pepper shakers. One of my favorites is made up of bright orange carrots pointing in all directions. On the few occasions that Marie has exhibited the collection to the public, she says people have been attracted to one that looks like a violet-printed cloth draped in a basket.

There are ceramic, pottery, glass and pewter plates. One with a wooden handle is shaped like a frying pan. I noticed that there were N.C. State and UNC plates, but no Duke one. Surely Blue Devils eat deviled eggs. “I haven’t seen any Duke plates,” Marie says.

Naturally, she can make a mean deviled egg, too. Marie and Donald used to have a catering

Marie's deviled eggs

Marie’s deviled eggs

business. She was kind enough to have some for me to taste using mayonnaise (Hellmann’s not Duke’s; she prefers the flavor and texture), mustard, a dash of Texas Pete hot sauce and paprika or dill on top.

I assumed that the super-creamy filling was made in a food processor, but Marie said she makes the filling using a collard chopper, which has a circle of razor-sharp teeth for prepping piles of greens.

She does make an addition to her filling that I’m going to try. If she’s making two dozen deviled eggs, she cooks two more eggs and chops them all – whites and yolks – into the filling. It does make a substantial filling.

Deviled egg plates…deviled egg cookbook….seems like there’s something we could come up with together. Stay tuned.

Marie Lawrence and me

Marie Lawrence and me

 

 

The devils you don’t know

Peter Cottontail is hopping down the bunny trail toward Sunday’s big event, which is the center of traditional deviled egg season.

I like deviled eggs as much at Christmas as at Easter – that’s one reason I wrote a whole book on them. But I thought there must be options beyond pickle relish and mayo. And there certainly are. The book has deviled eggs with smoked salmon or blue cheese, even salsa or black olives.

This recipe from my book “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” published by Harvard Common Press is bright and different with fresh flavors for spring. Go get a pretty deviled-egg plate and put these out for Easter dinner – they’ll be the first things to go, I promise.

Springtime Herb Delights

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley (leaves only, no stems)

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives

Salt and black pepper to taste

Fresh Italian parsley leaves for garnish

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Stir in the finely chopped herbs. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

Fill the whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with a whole parsley leaf.

Makes 12

Word to your deviled eggs

When I was a kid, my father used to stroll around the house performing an early precursor to rap. He was quite a visionary performer, actually, to have foretold the popularity of spoken-word singing. He also prepared me for unsavory song content by teaching me the words to “Mack the Knife” at age 10. I can still sing every one, scarlet billows and all.

But when Easter approached, he sent Mackie out of town in favor of his rap-like ditty with a BOOM-da-da, da-da; BOOM-da-da, da-da; BOOM-da-da, da-da; BOOM-da-da beat: “Easter time is the time for eggs, and the time for eggs is Easter time.”

But bunnies seemed to be the bosses of the Easter world, so I spent my childhood a bit confused about how rabbits produced eggs.

Anyway, no matter where they came from, eggs were what we rapped about. Maybe that’s why I wrote an entire cookbook of recipes for deviled eggs. This one makes a beautiful deviled egg that will surprise people at your Easter dinner – it’s not the usual pickle relish. Definitely worth rapping about.

Lox and Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons whipped cream cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped smoked salmon

1 1/2 teaspoons grated onion

Salt and black pepper to taste

Drained capers for garnish

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the sour cream, cream cheese and mustard. Stir in the smoked salmon and onion. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Fill the whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with 3 or 4 capers.

Makes 12

Devil those eggs, dearie

I love Mrs. Patmore on “Downton Abbey.” She’s like the Julia Child of the aristocracy’s kitchen staff – not in the sense that Mrs. Patmore knows a whit about French cooking, but that her meal preparation goes on no matter what. I believe those two old girls would have a fine time together at the servant’s ball.

But to discover here that no well-dressed table in that elegant era was without deviled eggs – well, I feel even closer to my darling ginger-haired Mrs. P.

If you’re planning a viewing party as the third season is underway on WUNC-TV, I offer this recipe from my book “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” (Harvard Common Press). The recipe is from Ben Barker of the late, great Magnolia Grill, and is fit for lords, countesses or anyone you might host – even chauffeurs.

Magnolia Grill’s Deviled Eggs with Caviar

12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus more for garnish

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 ounce sturgeon caviar (best-quality American or imported)

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the mayonnaise until fairly smooth. Add the mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco and chives and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the whites evenly with the mixture. The eggs can be made several hours ahead up to this point. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Right before serving, top each deviled egg with a generous spoonful of caviar and garnish with minced chives.

Makes 24

Crack up for Halloween

Why, of course I have a deviled egg costume! And here’s a devilish spicy treat from my cookbook “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” (Harvard Common Press, 2004) to go with it. I haven’t yet found a milk bottle costume for my new book, “Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook” (UNC Press).

The Devil Made Me Do It

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/4 teaspoons Caribbean-style habanero hot sauce, plus more for garnish, if desired (Cackalacky, made in North Carolina, is a good choice)

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard. Stir in the hot sauce, curry powder and garlic powder. Taste, then season with salt and pepper (you may not need any). Fill the whites evenly with the mixture.

If you really like it hot, garnish each egg half with a dab more hot sauce. Smoked paprika makes a good garnish, too. Makes 12.

Jubilee, y’all

The British member of the aerobics class I attend and I were discussing the recent diamond jubilee for Queen Elizabeth. This was preferable to doing yet more knee lifts, something the queen certainly wouldn’t be seen doing. She brought up the eternal question about what’s in that darn purse Queenie carries around. It’s everywhere. No matter what she’s wearing – suit, ermine-trimmed robe, gold lame – it’s always the same black patent leather handbag.

As we talked, I realized something: The queen could never be a Traditional Southerner. At the boat parade on the Thames for the jubilee, she had on a lovely white suit trimmed in Swarovski crystals (or so the orating heads on BBC America said) and a beautiful white hat. She glowed like a diamond herself – until the camera swung around to her white-gloved left arm. There was the shiny black purse,  looking like a cowpatty in the snow. Black patent leather after Memorial Day? My grandmother (who lived to be about the queen’s age now) would have drastically lowered her estimation of the monarchy. On the dot of Memorial Day, my grandmother would wrap her black patent leather handbag in tissue paper and put it in the closet, then pull out and carefully unwrap her white patent leather bag. The ceremony was repeated in reverse on Labor Day.

The purse issue isn’t all. My college roommate, a Tar Heel native who has lived in Britain for many years, often bemoans the Brits’ lack of familiarity with the Southern staple, the deviled egg. I don’t know how they have Easter dinners there, I just don’t. And what they do to chicken salad… After the commentators mentioned something called Coronation Salad, I looked online. A recipe that purports to be the 1953 original contains, with the chicken, whipping cream, apricot jam, canned apricots, red wine and tomato puree. Well, I guess you have to make do if you can’t get Duke’s mayo.

 

 

There she is, Miss Deviled Egg

miss smoke and fire, miss deviled egg 2012

No swimsuit competition. No earnest speeches about saving baby whales. Just deviled eggs – and beverages. Emerson Beyer and Michael Bruno in Durham invited me to be a judge for for their Deviled Egg Pageant, and how could I resist? Especially since money from tickets to the party and pageant went to Urban Ministries in Durham. The pageant started three years ago as part of a party in their backyard. This year, as part of the fundraising, it was moved to a downtown space and opened to professional chefs as well, and raised around $1,500.

Entrants – 20 in all – were asked to pair deviled eggs with suitable beverages, then add creativity to secure the coveted white satin sash. Creativity, as with Miss Steph laPod: deviled eggs containing octopus. Miss Southern Hospitality went the classic Southern route, with a matching lemony iced tea.

miss veruca salt, a sweet custard take on deviled eggs

Other judges were Amy Tornquist, chef of Watts Grocery in Durham;  Andrea Weigl, food writer for The News & Observer; Stuart White of Bluebird Meadows Farm and Noah Ranells of Fickle Creek Farm, plus Emerson and Bruno.

I paired up for judging with Tornquist, dividing egg halves between us for judging. Twenty is a lot of deviled eggs, let me tell you, and you’ve got to pace yourself. We had standards, and we showed no mercy. Tornquist said of one that included too much sweet pepper jelly that it was “what a Yankee would think a deviled egg is.” Neither of us could handle the deviled eggs topped with Peeps. We gave the person who made meringues shaped like eggs with a lemon sauce points for wit – but those were not deviled eggs.

But there were enough standout examples of high deviled-egg art that there was a lively discussion among all the judges as to the winners in the amateur and professional categories. First place in the amateur category went to Miss Smoke and Fire by Andrew and Meaghan Hutson of Durham, which included eggs with Benton’s bacon and a bourbon margarita. Other winners were Miss Vichy, topped with crunchy fried leeks; and Miss Smoky. The professional category was taken by Miss Pickled Pink by Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Baking, which involved beets. The People’s Choice, determined by guests’ votes, was Miss Fermentation Sensation, three flavors of pickled-and-stuffed eggs.

 

Hippety hopping

Some children are probably pretty confused this time of year, thinking that colored eggs are laid by a large rabbit. Gather round, kiddies, and I’ll tell you the truth: The colored eggs aren’t produced by the Easter Bunny, but by Big Bird.

As the author of an entire book on deviled eggs, I do get questions. People vehemently opposed to waste ask what to do with all those eggs after the kids have hunted them down. Here’s what to do: Toss them in the trash. Unless you want to be known as the Easter host who gave everyone food poisoning.

Cook some extra eggs and refrigerate them in anticipation of creamy, lovely deviled eggs. Offer the group something a little different this year with this recipe from my book “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy” (Harvard Common Press, 2004).

Lox and Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half and yolks mashed in a bowl

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons whipped cream cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped smoked salmon

1 1/2 teaspoons grated onion

Salt and black pepper to tste

Drained capers for garnish

Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the sour cream, cream cheese and mustard. Stir in the smoked salmon and onion. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Fill the whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with 3 or 4 capers. Makes 12.

Grin and eat it?

Thanksgiving isn’t just a time for eating with the family. It’s also a time for menu conflict.

Take this email I received from my friend Maureen: “I put my son in charge of deviled eggs for Thanksgiving. He’s come up with a very ordinary recipe (though it does use cream cheese). Can you tell me one or two simple items that we can toss in there that will give these puppies a little pizazz?”

At Thanksgiving, one often must smile and eat. Granny’s marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes that contain more sugar than a pie. Aunty’s dressing that crumbles like sand. Maureen, if you are determined to snatch up the plate when he arrives, dump the eggs’ filling into a bowl and add what you like to it yourself, I do have some suggestions.

– Bacon. Bacon makes everything better.

– Since there’s already cream cheese in the recipe, add some chopped smoked salmon, onion and capers.

– Add a little mayo, Dijon mustard and blue cheese for a rich deviled egg. Top it with bacon.

Shelling out

When I wrote my first cookbook, “Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy,” I found out some things. That deviled eggs are beloved across this great nation was not a surprise. What was surprising was the level of hostility expressed for a simple part of the process that ends in the plate of creamy loveliness.

People hate eggshells.

I cooked about 350 eggs while testing recipes for the book, and I don’t wake up screaming, imagining that I’m drowning in bits of crushed white stuff. Take them off and move on, I say, like bad shoes.

But I must be better adjusted than many cooks. When the book came out, a friend gave me a contraption that was supposed to hold the egg while it cooked and make the shell come off easier. Other people swore to me that sticking a pin in the end of the shell before cooking makes the peel come off like a buffed soap star’s shirt.

I did not understand the shell obsession until today. Today a friend sent me this link to the Eggie. The Eggie is a Christmas ornament-shaped plastic, two-part container. You crack the whole egg into the container, which takes the place of the shell. Then, sit the containers in water and cook the eggs.

They found some mighty unhappy egg peelers for the accompanying video. They look more like they’re scooping dog poop than cooking, and practically break down in tears over the shells. They’re probably tired, since the narration stresses that it’s taking them all day to peel the eggs. I never thought about that. Now, my eyes are open. I think of all the ways I could have more profitably spent the enormous amount of time that peeling eggshells has consumed in my life – making quiche, watching “Chicken Run”… Wow.  And with the Eggie, I could also enjoy the challenge of finding storage for all these little covered cups and searching for the lids, and the use of energy and water to wash them.

How could I have been such a fool? Arise, egg peelers. You have nothing to lose but your shells.