Regardless of one’s religion, spring is seen as a time of rebirth and renewal, and nothing shouts “spring” to me like beautiful decorated eggs.
When I was a child growing up in the Midwest, my mother would hard boil vast cauldrons of eggs in the week leading up to Easter. Once the eggs cooled we’d drizzle vinegar into coffee cups filled with boiling water, add a few precious drops of food coloring, and then carefully dip in the eggs using teaspoons. For variety, sometimes we’d use crayons to write or draw on the eggs before coloring them. Trust me, we’re talking basic, home-spun creations, not decorator eggs. Eggs should never be too pretty to hide — hiding is eggs’ raison d’être.
I still remember the thrill of being a small child filled with serious determination, hunting for the egg creations after my mom hid them. It was extremely important to find all of the eggs, especially when inclement weather forced the hunt indoors. Why? Mom usually forgot where she hid the eggs. If we didn’t find all of them, there would be serious repercussions a few weeks later when nature inevitably took her biodegradable course.
Egg hunts back in Nebraska were nothing like those here in Alaska. Real spring comes far later than in other parts of the country, but people here see themselves as tougher and hardier than folks Outside. Halloween costumes are designed to fit over snowsuits and boots. Easter egg hunts take place outdoors. Don’t even think about moving an egg hunt indoors – no matter the weather – it simply isn’t done. That means Easter egg hunts in Alaska are fraught with a different set of risks than you’ll find in any other part of the country.
A few years back the snow at a local park was so deep that children were stuck waist-deep hunting for eggs. Several kids were reported missing and police were dispatched to try to round them up. That was before a 1,500 pound bull moose crashed the party, charged an officer, and the shooting began. Trust me, I can’t make this stuff up. Poor Bullwinkle’s final act was as ceremonial guest on the dinner menu in a local charity’s soup kitchen. But I digress.
Finding the eggs had another important purpose when I was a child — they were food, not just decoration. My mother was raised during the Depression (yes, that Depression) and firmly practiced the “waste not, want not” mantra that had been drilled during her formative years. The dozens of hard cooked eggs surfaced in a variety of forms following each year’s successful hunt. As egg salad sandwiches. Sliced as a topping for green bean casserole. Eaten out of hand with a sprinkle of salt. And as my very favorite form, stuffed eggs.
Notice I said stuffed, not deviled. “Deviling” is a term coined in the early 1800s to refer to foods “cooked with fiery hot spices or condiments,” and the word fiery did not have a place in our home when I was growing up. Replace the culinary concept of “spicy ethnic” with “subdued Scandahoovian” and you’ll probably get an idea of the ambience in my mother’s kitchen.
Many recipes for deviled eggs call for Tabasco or another type of contraband hot sauce that would have been on my mom’s prohibited list. Her version of stuffed eggs was more angelic than devilish, with a bit of yellow mustard giving the slightest kick to the smooth yolk mixture. In this updated recipe I’ve substituted Dijon mustard to give it a touch more class and added a bit of white pepper for perkiness. And dill, just because I like dill in my stuffed eggs.
Angelic Deviled Eggs
6 large eggs, hard cooked
3 Tbs mayonnaise
3 tsps Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsps fresh dill, chopped (or 2 Tbs dry)
Smoked paprika for garnish
1) Carefully shell the cooked eggs, slice each in half lengthwise, and remove the yolks to a small bowl. Tip: If you don’t have a fancy platter with indentations to hold the eggs, don’t worry. Simply shave a small bit of white off the bottom end of each egg half and they’ll stay in place on a regular flat serving dish.
2) Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce to the egg yolks and combine thoroughly to make a smooth mixture. If you have a small food processor, by all means use it. Another option is to put the ingredients in a resealable plastic bag and knead it until the mixture is smooth. Add the dill.
3) Place the yolk mixture in a small pastry bag and pipe into the eggs. No pastry bag? Snip the corner off of the resealable plastic bag and use it to fill the eggs. You won’t be able to create the little decorative flourishes, but the eggs will still taste great. Garnish with paprika, if desired.