A couple of weeks ago, I was footling around in the sun at Ciudad, one of my favourite restaurants in LA, with a Margarita and some devilled eggs. (This goes some way to explain the recent hiatus at Gastronomy Domine; I went away for a week and forgot my laptop, then caught something filthy from one of the insanitary people on the plane on the way home and spent all of last week in bed. To be honest, enforced absence from the internet has been great – I highly recommend it.)
I have some friends who claim they don’t like eggs, and whose idea of picnic hell is a plate of devilled eggs. This recipe, inspired by the two helpings of Ciudad’s spectacular and spectacularly expensive jalapeño and bacon devilled eggs that I ended up face down in, is not for them. If you are a fan of devilled eggs, you’ll be pleased to learn that these keep well, refrigerated, for a couple of days. They’re a great outdoor food – just pack them in the bottom of a plastic box before you go, and make sure you keep it the right way up.
To prepare 12 eggs, you’ll need:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
½ pickled habanero chilli – or other chillies to taste
6 spring onions, white and pale green parts only
1 small handful each dill, parsley and chives
½ stalk celery
½ sweet dill pickled cucumber
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon (a sweet, dry cure is best here – try to get a reasonably thick cut too)
Start by boiling the eggs. Perfect hard-boiled eggs are as easy as anything – just cover all the eggs with cold water in a saucepan, and bring it to the boil with the lid on. As soon as the eggs boil, remove them from the heat, keeping the lid on, and leave to one side for 12 minutes. Put the saucepan in the sink and run cold water over the eggs for a few minutes until they are cold, then peel.
While the eggs are boiling, grill the bacon until it starts to crisp at the edges. Put all the ingredients except the dill pickle and bacon in the food processor, and whizz until you have a creamy paste.
Dice the pickle finely by hand. You’re chopping it rather than processing it so that it adds a bit of crunch to the eggs. If you’re in the UK, Mrs Elswood pickles, which are available in most supermarkets in the pickles section and sometimes in the kosher section, are excellent. (Like Betty Crocker and Sara Lee, the Mrs Elswood pictured on the label is a fiction – the name is a portmanteau of Elstree and Borehamwood, where the company is based. They’re still damn good pickles.) Dice the bacon finely with a sharp knife, reserving one rasher. Slice that rasher finely to use as a garnish and reserve. Add the diced pickle and bacon to the whizzed ingredients in a large bowl and taste for seasoning. You may find you don’t need to add any salt.
Halve the peeled eggs and pop their yolks out into the bowl with the other ingredients. Use a fork to squish the yolks into the creamy mixture, and stir vigorously to combine everything. Put the mixture in a piping bag with a medium nozzle and pipe dollops into the empty egg halves. Use a squeeze-down-up motion for the best results – you don’t need to twist the bag or nozzle as you work. If you don’t have a piping bag, just spoon the mixture into the eggs or pop it in a freezer bag with the corner snipped off and use that instead – it won’t look as pretty, but it’ll taste just as good.
Sprinkle some herbs and the reserved bacon over the top, and serve cold.