By Joy Howard | Photos by Dominic Perri
My mother taught me everything I know about how to host a good party—most importantly, how to make the tastiest deviled eggs you’ll ever eat.
You might think I’m joking, but aside from having a detailed menu planned weeks in advance, you’d know (if you were raised by my mother) that making the perfect deviled egg is an essential skill. She’s always taken pleasure in hosting large crowds of hungry guests, and throughout my childhood there were many such gatherings—cabbage slaw and smoky rib barbecues, cocktail parties with mounds of jumbo shrimp and delicately folded spinach pies, Thanksgiving feasts studded with spicy cornbread dressing and homemade gravy.
The menus may have changed, but at least a few things remained nearly constant no matter the occasion: always cocktails, often deviled eggs, and seldom leftovers of either.
If you’ve had a good stuffed egg, a really good one, then you know how irresistible they can be. I think that’s why my mom returned to the recipe again and again, party after party. Few things make her more content than a roomful of happy, well-fed guests patting their bellies and groaning in sated satisfaction, and her spreads have always been filled with the kind of food that’s guaranteed to inspire those responses. Deviled eggs might be old-fashioned, but put a plate of them down at a party and watch how quickly they disappear (and how many people go back in for seconds and thirds). Always a crowd-pleaser.
It comes as no surprise to me that such an old-school snack has made a bit of a comeback in recent years, finding its way onto restaurant and pub menus and flooding the food blogosphere with all manner of ingredients folded into their silky fillings. And while I admit many newer versions sound delicious, I still find myself returning to the simple, classic recipe that my mother taught me: mayo, a little mustard, sweet relish, and a few generous grinds of pepper. (She also tops hers with a briny jalapeño-stuffed olive and a sprinkle of paprika. It’s perfection!)
This simplicity, along with its never-fail appeal, is the reason the recipe is well worth making with your kids. It’s a simple dish that demonstrates how even the most common ingredients and simple techniques can yield exquisitely tasty results. There’s also plenty to teach beginners here about basic cooking: bringing water to a boil, the how and why of preparing an ice bath, and the best way to peel a boiled egg (start from the larger end where there’s a little air pocket) to name a few. It will be years before my 8-year-old will host a party of her own, but I’m making sure she’s got at least one go-to recipe down pat long before then. I’m sure my mother would be proud.