Where the devil?
According to the food historians the practice of “devilling” food “officially” began sometime during the 18th century in England. Why? Because that was when the term “deviled,” as it relates to food, first shows up in print. The earliest use of this culinary term was typically associated with kidneys & other meats, not stuffed eggs:
“Devil…A name for various highly-seasoned broiled or fried dishes, also for hot ingredients. 1786, Craig “Lounger NO. 86 ‘Make punch, brew negus, and season a devil.'”
—Oxford English Dictionary (the 1786 reference is the first use of this word in print. Words are often part of the oral language long before they appear in print).
“Devil–a culinary term which…first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments…The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell…Boswell, Dr Johnson’s biographer, frequently refers to partaking of a dish of “devilled bones” for supper, which suggests an earlier use.”
—The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (pages 247-248).
[James Boswell lived from 1740-1795, Dr. Johnson’s biography was published in 1791]
“Deviled…Any variety of dishes prepared with hot seasonings, such as cayenne or mustard. The word derives from the association with the demon who dwells in hell. In culinary context the word first appears in print in 1786; by 1820 Washington Irving has used the word in his Sketchbook to describe a highly seasoned dish similar to a curry. Deviled dishes were very popular throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, especially for seafood preparations and some appetizers.” —The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (pages 110-111)
“Around 1868, Underwood’s sons began experimenting with a new product created from ground ham blended with special seasonings. The process they dubbed “deviling,” for cooking and preparing the ham, was new. But best of all, the taste was unique. Soon thereafter, the “Underwood devil” was born.”
History of the Underwood Company
Many early 19th century devilling recipes were for meat and other items:
Devilled Biscuits…Butter some biscuits on both sides, and pepper them well, make a paste of either chopped anchovies, or fine cheese, and spread it on the biscuit, with mustard and cayenne pepper, and grill them.”
—The Jewish Manual, by A Lady [London:1846] (p. 98)”Devilling, Or broiling with cayenne, is also a good expident to coax the palate when you have relics of poultry of game. Fish can likewise be “devilled,” or egged and fried with a small piece of butter and bread crumbs, mixed with a little dried tyme, marjoram, and fresh parsley crumbled and chopped very fine.”
—The Dinner Question, or How to Dine Well and Economically, Tabitha Tickletooth, [London:1860] (p. 51)
Recipes for deviled eggs have changed with time, probably a result of culinary fads and ingredient availabilty. Compare the following:
Boil six or eight eggs hard; leave in cold water until they are cold; cut in halves, slicing a bit of the bottoms to make them stand upright, a la Columbus. Extract the yolks, and rub to a smooth paste with a very little melted butter, some cayenne pepper, a touch of mustard, and just a dash of vinegar. Fill the hollowed whites with this, and send to table upon a bed of chopped cresses, seasoned with pepper, salt, vinegar, and a little sugar. The salad should be two inches thick, and an egg be served with a heaping tablespoonful of it. You may use lettuce or white cabbage instead of cresses.”
—Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery, Marion Harland [Scribner:New York] 1882 (p. 246).
If to be served hot, boil the eggs hard, and quarter or slice them, then lay them in a stewpan with enough gravy to cover them. Gravy a la Diable will be found excellent; but a plainer one can be made on the same principle by using a cheaper stock. A few drops of anchovy sauce is an improvement. Serve as soon as the eggs are hot throught, sith strips of dry toast, or put croutons round the dish.(p. 594)
Gravy a la Diable
Required: half a pint of clear brown stock…half an ounce of arrowroot, a tablespoonful of claret, a teaspoonful of French mustard, a dessertspoonful of Worcester sauce, and a little soluble cayenne, with salt to taste, and a few drops of soy. Mix the thickening with the claret, and the rest of the ingredients, and boil for a few minutes. Serve with kidneys, steaks, &etc., or with grilled fish. For a hotter sauce, increaes the Worcester sauce, or boil a few capsicum seeds in the gravy.” (p. 85)
—Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book, Lizzie Heritage [Cassell and Company:London] 1894.
Boil eggs twenty minutes and when cool shell. Cut into halves crosswise and remove the yolks without breaking the whites. Put the whites of the same egg together, that they need not get separated. The yolks may be put in the bowl. Whe all are cut, rub the yolks to a c ream with melted butter, add a little made mustard or sauce from the chow chow bottle a little pickle or pilces and salt and paprika to season. Fill the mixture into the whites, put the halves together as they belong, and as if preparing them for the picnic basket fasten together with a couple of little Japanese wooden tooth picks before wrapping in waxed paper. The picks serve as handles in eating. If they are to be put on the home table press the halves together and arrange on a bed of cress or lettuce. For a change, finely minced meat highly seasoned is often added to the yolks. The devilled mixture that will be left over makes a spicy filling for sandwiches. Another way of using devilled eggs is to spread the yolk mixture left over on a shallow baking dish, place the eggs on it and cover with a thin cream sauce, veal or chicken gravy. Sprinkle with buttered crumbs and bake until the crumbs are delicate brown. A grating of cheese may be incorporated with the crumbs, if desired.”
— New York Evening Telegram Cook Book, Emma Paddock Telford [New York Evening Telegram:New York] 1908 (p. 28-9).
Remove the yolks from six hard-cooked eggs and force therm through a fine sieve. Add one teaspoonful of salt, one teaspooonful of dry mustard, one-half teaspoonful of freshly ground, black pepper, one teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce, one-and-one-half tabelspoonfuls of chopped parsley, and at least a tablespoonful of mayonnaise. Beat well wtih a fork till it forms a firm paste, adding more mayonnaise if necessary. Fill the white halves. using a pastry tube and garnish wih chopped parsley or tiny strips of pimiento.”
—Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes With a Key to the Cocktail Party, James Beard [M. Barrows:New York] 1940 (p. 54)
Prepare: Hard-cooked eggs
Shell the eggs, cut them in halves, remove the yolks. Crush the yolks with a fork and work them into a smooth paste with:
Mayonnaise, French dressing, cream or butter
Season the paste with:
A little dry mustard (optional)
Fill the egg whites whith the paste and garnish the eggs with:
Chopped parsley or chives
Sliced olives, anchovies, capers, etc.
—The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer [Bobbs-Merrill:Indianapolis] 1946 (p. 92).
Deep-fried deviled eggs
This departure from the usual is fun to do and fine to serve. After you have prepared your deviled eggs, dip them in fork-beaten egg, then roll in fine bread crumbs. (And this can all be done in the morning.) When cooking time comes, place the eggs in a frying basket (this is essential), and deep fry at 365 degrees farenheit until brown. Serve at once.”
—Martha Deane’s Cooking for Compliments, Marian Young Taylor [M.Barrows:New York] 1954 (p. 133).