If the History Network's Hungry History site is to be believed, deviled eggs trace their arrival at the dinner table all the way back to Roman times. Allegedly, hard boiled eggs seasoned with spices were the go-to appetizer for the Martha Stewarts (er, Marthonia Stewarticus?) of the classical era. By the 13th century, deviled eggs had reached Andalusia where they got a more involved treatment — after seasoning the boiled egg yolks with things like cilantro, onion juice, pepper, and coriander, the blend was stuffing into the hallowed out egg whites and, according to a cookbook from the time, "the two halves were then fastened together with a small stick and peppered."
Today the sticks are gone, but the focus on the details remains. Exhibit A) Zero George Chef Vinson Petrillo's exceedingly instagrammable deviled egg quartet.
"First of all, what makes the deviled egg bad is doing too much to it," says Petrillo. That may sound ironic given the perfection of the chef's bar staple — these things are so beautiful you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for Fabergé — but he contends it's the simplicity of his recipe that makes his eggs taste great.
"It's like a burger, if you have great ingredients and put them together it's usually really good. My philosophy on all food is find the best. So great eggs, inside of the yolks is a bit of mayo, mustard, and seasoned properly with shallots."
Not surprisingly, Petrillo's philosophy of using the best ingredients is a running theme with chefs behind the city's best deviled eggs. Although Chris Stewart of The Glass Onion takes a much more back to basics approach. Stewart's goal is always to recapture the essence of his grandmother's deviled egg recipe.
"She died back in '93 and I never learned how to make them from her, but I've tried to revisit her deviled eggs and imagine the types of things she would have," says Stewart. "She'd never own Dijon. She would have had Mt. Olive pickled relish, mayo, and French's mustard. Hers always had the chunky green relish." That's the only ingredient where Stewart makes an exception. The chef uses his signature Thunder Sauce sweet pepper relish instead. Other than that, however, it's the same concept and needless to say, grandma knows best. For the past 10 years operating Glass Onion, Stewart's deviled eggs have crushed it.
"We go through five dozen eggs a day," he says. In fact, the prep process was so labor intensive, the chef began to research the best ways to produce plenty of peelable eggs. His answer: baking soda. Stewart says a touch of baking soda in the boiling water helps separate the egg from the shell for easy peeling.
"At FIG, Lata would poke a hole in the eggs using a thumbtack," he adds. "The thumb tack helps with that membrane. Some say salt the water, others say put vinegar in the water. All of those things I've tried and the one I think has worked the most after being scientifically repeated is baking soda."
Thank God he figured that out because after taking his deviled eggs off the menu this summer for the first time in the restaurant's history, customers demanded their return. Suffice it to say, if you stop by Glass Onion tonight, you'll find the deviled eggs back on the menu.
The fear of 86ing deviled eggs from a menu is real. Spero's Chef RJ Moody gets it. He says the deviled eggs are arguably the most popular dish on Spero's menu and that's why Spero's ever-evolving deviled egg — Moody counts seven different iterations — will likely stay a menu staple. But not just because regulars love it. Rather, because it's a bar food no-brainer.
"It's the perfect one bite snack. Anybody who eats a deviled egg in two bites is a weirdo. Anybody who eats only one deviled egg is a weirdo. They have no humanity," says Moody. "It's everything you need — protein, fat, acid. It makes you want to eat more."
That certainly seems to be the case at Spero where diners can't seem to get enough of the latest take on their deviled egg: The everything bagel.
"We had just done the nacho deviled egg and were tired of doing the nachos. We had some poppy seeds laying around and Rob said 'How about an everything bagel? I was like 'I'm in.'" The first test batch was good, but something was missing. "We added smoked salmon and that gives it pops of smoky saltiness." So far, guests love it, although there's been some confusion.
"The menu just says 'Everything bagel' in quotes," says Moody which inevitably has led to some confusion when a deviled egg appears. But he adds once they taste it, guests are on board. Which is to say don't expect Spero's deviled eggs to go anywhere any time soon.
"I don't want to cause another shrimp toast incident," Moody says.