Looking for Halloween food? How about something Devilish? Deviled eggs, anyone?
From what I’ve read, deviled foods were popular in the 1700s, when all kinds of things were highly spiced, particularly with mustard and pepper and labeled “deviled.” Things odd to us today like deviled mutton and deviled tongue might be on the menu. Deviled shrimp and crab became popular in the 1800s and early 1900s.
And then in 1871, Underwood started marketing Deviled Ham, which comes in a very similar can today. If you automatically associate deviled ham with blah white bread sandwiches, check out the Underwood website for their modern recipes.
Rector’s Restaurant, NYC
My vintage cookbook from Rector’s, a competitor to New York City’s Delmonico’s in the 1880s, has several devilish recipes, none of which are terribly spicy.
Deviled Oysters does not sound too extreme with its “pinch of cayenne in oyster liquor and hot milk and cream to sauce the oysters.
Stuffed Deviled Crab Rector uses one pound of crab meat with a cream sauce that is seasoned with a few grains of cayenne and a teaspoon of dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce. Again, not too devilish hot.
Deviled Virginia Ham á la Rector achieves devilishness by simply smearing mustard on the ham and sprinkling with breadcrumbs. The ‘á la Rector’ comes in the presentation–surrounded by a ring of rissotto.
The Rector Stuffed Eggs sound a lot like our deviled eggs. The recipe calls for mixing the yolks with parsley, cream (instead of mayonnaise). The eggs are seasoned with salt and pepper and a few grains of cayenne. George Rector also presents a recipe for hard boiled eggs stuffed with a pate de fois gras mixture. He assures the homemaker that they will perfectly acceptable if you use liverwurst instead of fois gras.
See a common thread here? Cayenne pepper. Recipes commonly call for mustard in deviled foods.
Let’s jump up to the 1920’s and look at my vintage Buffalo Cooking School Cook Book. This book, inherited from my great aunt Maud, lists Deviled Crabs, Deviled Eggs, Deviled Fowl, Deviled Oysters, Deviled Sandwiches, and Deviled Tomatoes.
Those last two intrigued me. But I don’t think I’ll be making deviled sandwiches any time soon. Here’s the description:
Deviled Sandwiches. On Boston Brown Bread, you spread a mixture of almonds, sweet pickles, Worcestershire sauce, chutney, and cottage cheese, seasoned with a little paprika. UGH!
Deviled Tomatoes sound a bit more promising. Cook slices of tomatoes in butter, sauce with butter, mustard, sugar, hard cooked egg yolk and a raw egg, seasoned with mustard and vinegar.
Deviled Eggs. This book has a totally different take on deviled eggs. Instead of stuffed hard cooked eggs, they slice the hard cooked eggs. Then they warm them in a sauce of catsup (!), mustard, butter, a little paprika and Worcestershire sauce.
I’ll save a discussion of Devil’s Food Cake for next Halloween, but if you want to read even more about devilish foods, this Smithsonian article covers everything.
Now on to my favorite--Deviled Eggs, as they are generally made today– with mayonnaise and mustard added to the yolks. According to the History channel, commercially made mayo didn’t come along until early in the 20th century. That may explain the Rector recipe that uses cream.
At any rate, the least devilish item I can think of, and one of my family’s favorites, Deviled Eggs.
By the way, the argument continues to rage at our house about which sandwich spread is best for all things–including deviled eggs–Miracle Whip or Kraft’s Mayonnaise. Oh well, there are worse things for a family to fight over. But this family split guarantees that I’m not taking sides on which you use in your deviled eggs.
Why is Miracle Whip not “mayo”? Because food standards call for 65% vegetable oil in mayonnaise, and Miracle Whip has something less than that. That makes some people like it because of its taste emphasis on sweet and spicy rather than oily. But, whatever works for you and your family is what should go into your deviled eggs.