Every family has its own holiday traditions. Ours revolves around a group meal and present exchange. Here’s how it rolled out this year. We actually managed to lock down the date and time for our celebration in near record time. Then, negotiations started over what would be prepared for said holiday meal. When I explained this two-step process to a few folks at work and some friends, I got a some odd looks (from those with smaller families) and some knowing nods of recognition (from those who are part of larger broods). My youngest sister very proactively sent out this proposed very Southern-style holiday menu via email a few weeks out:
Holidays are coming fast! For those of you dining at the Blake household, how does Ham, potato salad, green bean casserole, and biscuits sound?
Then, I responded with a few points of feedback, based upon what I knew to be of some of the guests’ preferences (including those of one notoriously-fussy nephew) and a few of my own. Here was her response:
Well it is up to you. I was going to pick up ham from honey baked, potato salad from red hot blue, make green bean casserole and biscuits plus I asked R and M to bring appetizer or side dish. If you want to do something different and want to spearhead dinner, I will gladly pass the torch. You just let me know.
I wasn’t even pulling rank as a working chef on her. It was more just that I know that green bean casserole is a dish that repulses my youngest brother and that his children (in the main not vegetable-eaters) would also not touch it. Believe it or not, I’m not much of a fan of a huge hunk of ham as part of a meal. My mother used to fix mustard and brown sugar-glazed ham, boiled potatoes, and corn as a holiday dinner, as one of my sisters liked it. It is one of my culinary nightmares, still. After a few more emails, and a suggestion from me that we order Chinese food from our local favorite haunt, I received carte blanche to proceed with re-organizing the menu:
Then we will leave it in your capable hands. Just let R and M know if there is something other than a side dish or appetizer you want them to bring.
So, I took the original food list and revamped it a bit, still keeping it Southern-style and letting everyone contribute a bit to the meal. Feathers were smoothed back into place, and my father did not have to make good on his threat that if he didn’t like what we fixed, he could just run out to McDonald’s and grab a hamburger. (I did point out to him that that comment just tore right into my soul as a culinary professional, which he somehow found amusing.) One of the things that I added to the list was Old Bay® Deviled Eggs. I mean, what typifies a Southern celebratory meal anyway like a big ol’ plate of deviled eggs, with gleaming whites and smooth, creamy yolks. Judging by the fact that I was asked to set aside the last remaining two halves for one of the guests, I’d say that they were a hit on our holiday dinner table. Hopefully, they’ll find a spot on yours as well.
Old Bay® Deviled Eggs
Prep time: 30-45 minutes or so
Serving size: Allow one whole egg per adult, at least (my nephew eats only the whites)
Ingredients: There’s no specific proportions or measurements that I use for this recipe. I make these by taste and feel and depending upon the quantity of eggs I’m fixing.
Old Bay® Seasoning
Place a saucepan of water full enough to cover the eggs on the stove and bring it to a boil without the eggs in it. Then, when the water has boiled, pour a bunch of salt in the bottom of the pan. You probably need a couple of tablespoons of it at least. I used a very sad-looking container of good-quality sea salt for these, but any table or kosher salt will do. Gently lower the eggs into the pan, bring the water back to the boil, and let the eggs cook for 10 minutes in the boiling water. Remove the eggs from the pan and immediately either dunk them into an ice bath or into a bowl of cold water.
The eggs I made at my folks’ house this past week, using this cooking method, gave me the easiest-to-peel, hard boiled eggs of my life. Once cooled, the shells just slipped right off of the eggs. Cut them in half and pop out the yellow yolks, keeping whites and yolks in separate bowls.
Mash up the egg yolks with a fork until they are in fine, fluffy pieces. For this batch I made 8 eggs for 9 adults, which turned out to be just right. I started off with about 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of mustard along with 1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay® Seasoning, a sprinkle of salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Mix this all together and then taste it. It should be nicely creamy with no one flavor of mayonnaise or mustard or seasoning competing with each other or standing out too much overall. Keep adding a bit of each ingredient until you get the right proportion and taste. The consistency should be kind of similar to that of mashed potatoes.
I made the eggs a few hours prior to serving them, so I stored the whites in the refrigerator on their serving plate, and put the filling mixture into a piping bag to put into the egg whites at the last minute. I’ve served deviled eggs a few times at catered events and learned early on that using a piping bag speeds up the process of getting filling into whites, and it makes them look prettier and more consistent as well. After filling them, I sprinkled a bit more of the Old Bay® Seasoning on top of the eggs to give them an extra pop of flavor.
Kitchen Witch Tip:
I know there’s some differences of opinion about adding salt to the water in which the eggs are cooked, but this is the method I learned in culinary school as well as in the catering prep kitchen, where we did lots and lots of deviled eggs. This way seems to work when I’ve had to produce batches of them myself. Also, another tip is to use “old eggs,” ones that are a few days old and are not right off of the farm, as they are easier to peel.