The chicken or the egg?
Scientifically, it’s a silly question. Reptiles were laying eggs well before they evolved into birds, much less chickens, and of course the concept of the egg is as anatomically ancient as the animal kingdom itself.
Culinarily, it’s less cut and dried, though the egg still tends to have the upper hand. One eats eggs for breakfast, chicken rarely before brunch. And when it comes to Southern food, the egg definitely comes first.
In this case, we’re talking deviled eggs (or, more dialectically accurate, “aiggs”), the ultimate appetizer to a Southern meal.
Deviled eggs are not at all difficult, as long as you do two things. First, you must boil your eggs to perfection. Not done enough, and you have gummy, or worse runny, yolks. Done too much and your yolks are chalky and sulfurous, with an unappetizing green halo that dulls the color of your filling. Second, you must turn your perfectly-boiled yolks into a creamy, unctuous filling by passing it through a sieve to break down the cell structure. From there, it’s just mix, scoop and serve.
Boil more eggs than you intend to serve. Inevitably, one or two will get damaged either in cooking or peeling.
6 hard-boiled eggs (see below)
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp good Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp sweet relish, drained
1-2 tsp cider vinegar
paprika, salt and pepper
Peel the eggs, and slice in half lengthwise with a very sharp knife or a wire cheese cutter. (I found the latter to make a cleaner cut.) Remove the yolks and pass through a sieve into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, altering to taste, and mix until creamy. Pipe or scoop the filling into the eggs, dust with paprika and serve.
How to boil an egg
There’s a million different ways to do it, but this works for me: Puncture the shell with a tack at the blunt end, creating a small hole just big enough to allow the air bubble to escape. Place your eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by at least one inch. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat; keep at the boil for exactly 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and cover with running cold water until cool to the touch.
Once cool, crack the shell all over by tapping it gently on a flat surface. The shell should stick to the membrane underneath, making peeling easier.