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Wednesday, March 28, 2007 07:13 pm

Deviled Easter eggs

Grandmother always took the holiday a step further

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Untitled Document Easter was a big deal when I was growing up. There were the church services, which for a number of years included a sunrise play at Lincoln Memorial Garden, directed and produced by my mom (she also made the costumes and set, a.k.a. the tomb). It was pretty impressive to see that figure in a wig, long robe, and sandals come walking over the crest of a small hill, the pearly pinkish-grey water shimmering in the distance. Even so, I could hardly wait to get home. I knew what was waiting, because my family’s  traditions and rituals never varied. Easter was second only to Christmas in excitement, and it was a close second at that. Things got started the day before. In the morning, my mom would get out her giant pot and boil eggs. They were the only store-bought (white) eggs to ever enter our house, and they were only for dyeing; we wouldn’t have dreamed of eating them. There were always at least 10 dozen and sometimes more. Weather permitting, we had an outdoor wiener roast, complete with my grandmother’s homemade doughnuts, then adjourned inside to the serious business of dyeing and decorating the eggs. When all of the eggs had been dyed, we carefully polished each with a little vegetable shortening, then put them in a huge enameled-metal bowl, out on the porch, for the Easter Bunny to hide. Mysteriously, the Easter Bunny never came before we left for church the next morning. By the time our car pulled back into the driveway, however, we could see that he’d been there (though one year, as we drove in, we caught my grandfather hiding eggs; I never saw him before or after look so sheepish — I was so gullible, I actually believed the grown-ups when they told me that the Easter Bunny had forgotten to hide some of the eggs). Flashes of color beckoned everywhere, and baskets were temptingly nestled in clumps of daffodils or hung from trees. Some of the baskets held candy, notably a large personalized chocolate egg, which I never finished, and smaller foil-wrapped chocolate eggs from Pease’s. Candy, however, always took second place to the other goodies: books, toys, and other surprises. One year I even got a pony, although he didn’t come in a basket. Unfortunately, he also turned out to have a nasty disposition and a tendency to bite, which ended my juvenile horse obsession. Easter dinner never varied, either. Though for many people ham is traditional, in our household it was always leg of lamb, an appropriate springtime choice, accompanied by the first new spinach of the season, asparagus (if Easter was late enough), and always, always, my grandmother’s deviled Easter eggs. Though it’s fairly common to dye whole shelled eggs before filling, she took it a step further. It wouldn’t be Easter without them. 

Send questions and comments to Julianne Glatz at realcuisine@insightbb.com.
Deviled Easter Eggs 

Hard-boiled eggs, shelled Mayonnaise Dijon mustard Cider vinegar Ground turmeric (optional)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white     pepper to taste Red, blue, green, and purple food coloring Sprigs of dill or parsley for garnish (optional)

Fill four large jars (e.g., quart canning jars) or bowls about two-thirds full of cold water. Add a color to each container — if you want a brighter or deeper color, add more; for pastel colors, use less. The final color of the eggs will depend on the amount of color you use, as well as the amount of time the egg whites spend in the solutions. Halve the eggs lengthwise; gently remove the yolks and set them aside. Remove any of the yolk that clings to the edges or outside with the corner of a damp paper towel. Discard any torn or broken egg whites, but do add their yolks to the others. Divide the cut egg-white halves equally among the containers of colored water. Let them stand for at least 1 hour or cover and refrigerate the containers overnight.  Purée the yolks in the food processor. Alternatively, press them through a food mill or sieve or mash them with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, turmeric (this gives the yolks a brighter yellow color) salt, and pepper to taste. The term “deviled” implies a degree of spiciness;      however, the amounts depend on your personal taste. Do start with just a tablespoon or so of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of mustard, and the same with the vinegar. You want to create a smooth, creamy mixture but one that is not too loose. It’s much easier to add additional seasonings than it is to correct a mixture that is too runny or spicy. Refrigerate the yolk mixture if you are not using it immediately. Gently remove the whites from the jars and tip out any liquid remaining in the cavities. Turn the egg whites them upside down on paper towels for 15 to 30 minutes or until they are completely drained and relatively dry. Keep the colors on separate towels so that they don’t mingle. Place the dyed egg-white halves, cut side up, on a platter large enough to hold them comfortably in one layer. Fill the cavities with the yolk mixture using a portion scoop, two spoons, or a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Garnish with a sprig of dill or parsley, if desired. Note: The whites may be dyed for other holidays or for school/sports colors. Color the whites black and add extra turmeric to the yolks for Halloween. For Christmas, dye the whites green and add a tablespoon or so of sweet Hungarian paprika and a drop or two of (preferably flavorless) red food coloring to the yolks. From experience, I can tell you that these eggs will be a major topic of conversation at an Illini or Chicago Bears tailgate or party if you dye the whites a deep blue and color/flavor the yolks as for Halloween.
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