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Devilishly good

(article, Angela Allen)

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North Carolina cookbook writer Debbie Moose grew up with a mother who was allergic to eggs. Naturally, Moose has since made a name for herself by specializing in eggs — the devilish kind. 

She cracked 360 eggs to test ideas for her popular 2004 cookbook, Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy. Those creamy little packages — fluffed, stuffed, and topped with treats from caviar to capers — are back in demand.

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Moose’s Cajun-seasoned Zydeco Ya-Yas and Tex-Mex Diablos stretch the deviled egg’s boundaries, but she covers less-assertive stuffings with equal enthusiasm. Tops among her down-to-earth recipes is Ma-Ma’s Deviled Eggs (and we've put together a how-to to go with the recipe). 

Pinning down the ingredients for this recipe prompted a heated argument between Moose and her cousin. “My grandmother never wrote down a recipe, but I knew she liked them tart,” says Moose. After several taste tests, Moose verified that Ma-Ma sharpened the flavor with distilled white vinegar. 

Deviled eggs are “always the first thing to go at any party,” says Moose, but when she began her book several years ago, she couldn’t dig up a deviled-egg serving dish other than at a yard sale. Now the retail world is again producing platters in myriad patterns with indented “seats” for stuffed eggs.

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 credit="Photo © Culinate" caption="Deviled eggs are a party pleaser."] 

Besides serving as prom queens at potlucks, hard-cooked eggs fit well with the restaurant small-plate rage. A slow-roasted egg (cooked at 200 degrees for five hours) served with a chile-flavored dipping sauce was a popular $4 snack on Portland restaurant Clyde Common’s February bar menu.    

Eggs have been redeemed, Moose says. High in cholesterol, for a while in the late 20th century eggs were considered a heart-healthy no-no. But then the experts decided that saturated fat was the bigger villain, and eggs reappeared on our plates, packing lean protein into a small, easy-to-eat shape. 

True “deviled” eggs must be filled with fiery or spicy ingredients. If the filling lacks heat, the egg is technically called “stuffed.” 

In her “Hell Breaks Loose” chapter, Moose sticks to the “deviled” definition as zealously as medieval Christians joined the Crusades. She mixes hard-cooked yolks with jalapeño peppers, Tabasco sauce, red-pepper flakes, chile paste, habañero powder, and chipotles. 

[%image moose float=left width=300 caption="Debbie Moose knows deviled eggs."] Moose says that you have to plan ahead for truly devil-worthy eggs. “The best eggs for stuffing are not fresh from under the hen, so put a few dozen aside for a week or two before you hard-cook them,” she says. “Most supermarket eggs are about two weeks old.” 

The night before you plan to cook your eggs, wrap the cartons of eggs with rubber bands and turn them on their sides; this will encourage the yolks to move to the centers of the eggs and make them easier to stuff later.

In the morning, Moose says, put the eggs in a pot of cold water and bring the water up to a rolling boil. “Then take them off the heat, put a lid on the pot, and let them sit for 15 minutes. As soon as 15 minutes is up, drain them and put them under cold running water for five minutes, or let them sit in a bowl of cold water or ice,” she says. “The faster you get eggs cooled down, the easier they are to peel. The worst mistake you can make is overcooking them. They come out like little golf balls.”

When the eggs are cool, start peeling them at the big ends, where air pockets tend to form. “Peeling the suckers is the hardest part of the process,” says Moose. But the air pocket makes the labor easier — and the older the egg, the larger the pocket. 

Should you have any unused, cooked eggs, Moose adds, they’ll keep for about one week in the fridge. “But eggshells are porous and will absorb smells, so unless you want them to taste like an onion or coffee or kids’ lunches, keep them covered tightly,” she warns.

As for those Easter eggs you’ve hidden, refrain from deviling them. A hard-cooked egg (the term “hard-boiled” should only be applied to detective stories, Moose claims) can sit for just two hours at room temperature before the food-safety police will drag you to the woodshed. Make ‘em fresh instead, and wow your brunch guests.

p(bio). Angela Allen is a Portland writer who covers food, wine, travel, and opera. She has written for Culinate about sociologist Barry Glassner, cookbook author Sally Schneider, and grocery stores.

Get the step-by-step skinny on making deviled eggs in The Culinate 8.


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