It’s that time of year again — deviled eggs weather is back. Picnics, now, are even plausible and get ready for lots of backyard barbecue smoke. Not that winter is terribly inappropriate for making one of my favorite (read: Cheap! Easy! Quick!) party snacks. But sometime hovering around Easter, when there’s not much else to play with other than chives, just seems more fit. Let the Devil in.
I know that not everyone’s a deviled egg-worshipper, though, so I always try to over-impress with them. Besides, why stick to just mustard and mayonnaise when there are a trillion of condiments, fresh herbs, spices, and you-name-it to season the mashed yolks with, too? And that signature spray of paprika on top? Totally visual, unnecessary, and sneeze-inducing, if you ask me. Is this where the snack gets its ungodly name from? It’s a pretty lame show of spiciness if so.
So, I mixed up some mayonnaise with a good squirt of Sriracha instead. I’ll admit this came in the aftermath of the Duck Cook-Off last Saturday for Food Systems Network NYC, where I made steamed buns with braised five-spice duck, pickled carrot, duck skin cracklins, cilantro, scallions and spicy-citrus mayo. The citrus came from the zest of several oranges and a squeeze of fresh juice — because duck and oranges have a long, confused history together, particularly in Asian cuisine. But I liked the combo in this flavored mayonnaise enough to re-purpose it here.
I had actually gone to the Greenmarket in search of asparagus today, to make something quick for a home get-together later on. The shoots were still nowhere to be found; next week, maybe, the upstate farms told me. But a bunch of red Swiss chard at D&J Organics’ stand easily caught my attention instead, its berry-red stalks just begging for a job.
Maybe it’s the red of paprika that “devils” the eggs? If so I’ve found a better candidate for that. Swiss chard stems (like beet green stems, closely related) are edible, nutritious, and delightfully crisp. They can be a little fibrous, but when chopped up or sauteed quickly with the leaves, perfectly palatable. They’re a bit flavorless also, but take on other flavors like a sponge.
Soaking the chard stems in a vinegar solution does two things: plump up the stems to their maximum crispness, and give them a pungent bite. I like adding pickled bits to deviled eggs anyway, so a delicate spray of finely chopped, quick-pickled red Swiss chard stems it was this time. While you could come away with the exact same taste and crunchy contrast when using white chard stalks, the red ones are more visually striking. Better to pickle something else the same way for garnish instead, like radishes.
Finally, that’s far from the only thing you can do with both Swiss chard stems, and deviled eggs. I liked the stems so much I’ll have to come up with more uses for them, aside from eating them quickly sauteed with garlic (always great). Deviled egg variations will continue, such as one from last week with green curry paste in the mayonnaise. So if you’re jonesing for something in particular, do let me know, or blog about it, too. I may have to hold a deviled egg-off next…
Deviled Eggs with Spicy-Citrus Mayo and Pickled Swiss Chard Stems
(makes 1 dozen)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Sriracha (Vietnamese chili-garlic hot sauce sauce), or to taste
zest of 1 orange
1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
salt and pepper to taste
for the pickled chard stems:
3-4 stalks red Swiss chard
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Trim ends from the Swiss chard stems and place them in a small, shallow bowl. Combine the rice vinegar, water, sugar and salt and stir well until dissolved and pour over the stems to cover. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight. Thinly slice stems when ready to use. Reuse the vinegar solution to quick-pickle anything else.
Boil eggs for about 6 minutes and cool immediately to hard-boil them. Once fully cooled, carefully peel off shells. Slice each egg in half lengthwise and transfer yolks to a bowl. Mash the yolks well using a fork and add the mayonnaise, Sriracha, orange zest and juice. Taste and add salt and pepper or more of anything as desired.
Arrange the egg whites on a platter (or deviled egg dish!). Fill each hole with the yolk mixture. Top with the chopped Swiss chard stems and serve.
(for 12 pieces)
6 eggs (at $4.25/dozen): $2.13
1/2 cup mayonnaise: $0.75
1 tablespoon Sriracha: $0.25
1 orange: $0.33
3-4 stems from a bunch of Swiss chard: $0.20
1/3 cup rice vinegar: $0.50
salt, sugar: $0.20
Six brownie points: Maybe this is the reason they’re “deviled” — because the snack is so rich in fats. Egg yolks are mixed with more egg yolks and oil (= mayonnaise) and served in disproportion to the less-fatty egg cup of egg white. Well, it might not be the ratio that nature intended us to eat eggs, but it’s sure tasty. And satisfying, in one bite.
Eight maple leaves: You’ll think twice about chucking Swiss chard stems once you’ve tried them this way. When you separate them from the bunch, they seem less like a flaw and more like a separate product you’ve purchased, with different characteristics altogether. So eat ’em up however you like! Then, eggs are a much lower carbon-footprint protein than meat, and they can even be easily produced in a backyard or rooftop coop.