When we colored eggs at Easter time, we usually maximized our efforts. This meant boiling and dyeing not one mere dozen eggs, but several. Most of my years growing up, eggs were plentiful, and if you were going to spend the Saturday afternoon (and into the evening) before Easter Sunday decorating eggs, the more, the merrier.
A large stockpot of eggs was cooked and cooled, then my mom, my sister and I broke out the crayons and the PAAS egg dye and got down to business. My sister, the artist, relished in mixing colors and even employing watercolor paints; my mom and I stuck to simple crayon designs, including her popular “back-of-the-bunny” (with droppings) drawings.
The finished eggs filled cartons and wooden egg baskets and waited in the fridge for the Big Bunny to hide them. At the culmination of these spring festivities, we were left with joy and a whole heck of a lot of hard-cooked eggs. And there were only so many you could crack, peel and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
Ultimately — and likely even the same day — the eggs (or their colleagues that cracked during the cooking process) were either turned into potato salad or deviled eggs. Both prospects were so appealing, neither my sister nor I protested the sacrifice of our Easter booty.
A big bowl of potato salad, crisp with celery and onions, made extra rich with chopped egg yolks and whites and laden with a mustardy-mayo dressing, was always a welcome sight on the spring or summer buffet table. And a humble platter of deviled eggs, with their creamy, flavorful golden fillings, often sprinkled with vivid, fiery-red paprika as a finish, usually overshadowed anything else served — and disappeared first.
German settlers have been credited with bringing potato salad to America, the first versions a mix of potatoes and other veggies, along with vinegar in a dish that was served warm. With the advent of jarred commercial mayonnaise becoming popular in America in the 1920s, a cold potato salad with a creamy dressing was born.
Deviled eggs, or the process of “deviling” (which has over the years included everything from kidneys to ham) as a culinary term was first used as a verb in the early 19th century, according to “The Oxford Companion to Food,” (Oxford University Press: 1999). To devil, meant “to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments.”
Fillings for deviled eggs, generally made of hard-cooked egg yolks, mayo, mustard and seasonings, can be as varied as one can imagine, keeping them so silky they can be piped fancifully into egg white cups or chunking them up a little texturally with the same elements as potato salad, such as onions and celery and pickle relish. Top the eggs with everything from crumbled cooked bacon, olive slices, chopped parsley and chives or even candied walnuts.
If you have extra hard-cooked eggs, you can’t really go wrong with either potato salad or deviled eggs. But why not do both? A few years ago, I ran across a recipe in Southern Living magazine for “deviled potatoes” — small red potatoes cooked, cut in half, hollowed and filled with a cross between traditional deviled egg filling and potato salad. I decided to adapt my own version of this delightful twist on two classic favorites.
The mashup of a firm, but tender potato bite filled with egg-y filling is a winner (think handheld potato-salad-in-a-cup … no fork required). And this take means if you’re feeling “devil-ish” you don’t have to go with eggs alone.
Rebecca Howard grew up in Kansas and has written for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Los Angeles Times and LA Parent Magazine, and currently writes the food blog, “A Woman Sconed.”
“Deviled Egg” Potatoes Recipe