by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Recipe at the end of this post.
Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Not only is it a fun day with the family, usually accompanied by a great meal, it also signals that winter is definitely done and spring is upon us.
I conducted an informal poll of my friends and family and discovered that the overwhelmingly popular dish to have on Easter is deviled eggs, which makes sense, for a couple of reasons. Eggs symbolize life and new beginnings, and the tradition of decorating eggs for Easter, or the spring Equinox, goes back centuries and appears in many different cultures, predating Christianity. In some churches Easter eggs are blessed before being distributed to congregants. And the tradition of abstaining from meat and eggs during Lent is still practiced by many, Easter being the first chance to partake after a long period without them.
My mom would set up our egg-dying station on the patio table, giving each of us a dozen of our own to decorate and color. Then the Easter Bunny would come in the night and hide them around the house and in the back yard for us to discover on Easter morning. He’d also drop off baskets full of candy and other goodies. I remember those mornings as some of the most fun and exciting, almost as much fun as Christmas. A lot of great memories were made those mornings.
As a mom now with a kid of my own, I realize that along with the memories, a lot of hardboiled eggs are made on Easter too, which, I’m guessing, is how the deviled eggs at Easter tradition got started.
Deviled eggs are a standard offering at backyard cookouts and family gatherings, potluck dinners, and Sunday brunches. You can normally count on the filling being a combination of egg yolk, mayonnaise and mustard, with maybe a few spices thrown in. My mom always sprinkled paprika on top, which I considered exotic as a kid, plus I liked the dark orange color. I’d always grab the one with the most paprika first, enjoying the warm, slightly bitter taste.
Usually the way something has always been done is done that way for a reason—it’s tasty and a crowd-pleaser. But since working as a cook, and also having a deep passion for all things food related, I try to put a unique spin on traditional dishes. My goal is to keep flavors familiar enough that they trigger pleasant memories, but make them original enough to make them noteworthy.
I started cooking professionally in a locally owned restaurant kitchen near my university. I learned a good deal about steaks, burgers, and bar food there, and also how to cook for constantly turning tables during busy dinner and lunch services. We were tasked with keeping up the standards set by the chef and owners while sticking to tried and true recipes. I was there almost four years, and I received a dual education. I graduated with a degree in English literature and had also gained a valuable skill. I could cook, and I understood how a restaurant worked, in both the front and the back of the house.
Several years later, I was hired as part of the catering crew on a major motion picture. That experience was much different from working on the line in a restaurant. When a movie set breaks for lunch, the entire cast and crew comes to you at once, wherever they are filming that day. In our case it was the streets of Washington D.C., and we had anywhere from two to three hundred people each service, two meals a filming. That experience was one I’ll never forget, and also inspired my mystery series The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries, published by Henery Press.
So even though my culinary experiences were very different, a few things hold true. Always stay true to your ingredients, follow through on the flavors people are expecting, and place passion behind everything you create. Those three rules will help you turn out a great dish every time.
Here’s my spin on the classic dish:
Shawn’s Spicy Deviled Eggs
12 Peeled Hardboiled Eggs*
*Best method: place eggs and cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, and let sit 12 minutes. Remove from hot water and run cold water over your eggs. Peel them when they’re still slightly warm, to prevent the shells from sticking.
2 T mayo
1 tsp Sriracha
1/2 small carrot, finely chopped
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
Paprika, for sprinkling
Place the whites in your egg dish, or if you don’t have one, line a plate with leafy greens to keep them from sliding around. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a bowl. Mix together with remaining ingredients until everything is evenly incorporated. Pipe or spoon the yolk mixture evenly onto the egg whites. Chill for an hour, then dust with paprika and serve.
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