Cooking with Maine Women Writers: deviled eggs au gratin

July 2nd, 2013 by Laura Taylor

We all have those foods and recipes that hold special meaning for one reason or another. Maybe it’s a particular type of cookie at Christmas, pie for your birthday, bagels from a certain shop before traveling… For me (and many others, I know!) summer cookouts aren’t complete without deviled eggs. They’re old-fashioned, I know, but I’ve loved deviled eggs for as long as I can remember. With the 4th of July holiday coming up in a few days, I might just have to make some…

This recipe takes deviled eggs and makes a meal out of them. If you have any left over after your 4th of July barbecue, consider this dish for lunch the next day! (Leftover deviled eggs? OK, that’s just nonsense. Perhaps make some extra, just for this…)

The recipe is from The Working Girl’s Own Cook Book by Hazel Young. First published in 1938, MWWC has the 1954 printing. I previously mentioned this cookbook last year and I must admit to poking a bit of fun at it. Like I said before, it’s full of strange recipes like hamburg shortcake and banana and peanut salad. (The latter consists of a banana rolled in mayonnaise and chopped peanuts, arranged on lettuce and served with mayonnaise into which boiled dressing and peanut butter have been folded. Oh my.)

I decided I really wasn’t being fair and I scoured the small volume for recipes to try. Most of them ended up being dessert recipes, those being the ones that were most familiar to me and didn’t involve frankfurters wrapped in bacon. The preface to the egg-based meal plan reads:

Keeping fresh eggs on hand is good practice. It means that even if the marketing has been neglected, there can still be a dinner. Eggs are a good meat substitute but the hearty eater will probably serve plenty of accompaniments when using eggs, as the main course. It’s really a matter of psychology, though, and not of nutrition.

The menu plan includes chilled fruit cocktail, deviled eggs au gratin, baked potato, brussels sprouts, tomato and cucumber salad and cinnamon coffee cake. Goodness! We skipped most of that, instead focusing on the deviled eggs au gratin (to which I added spinach) and serving them with simple buttered toast.

Deviled Eggs au Gratin

Cut hard-cooked eggs in halves lengthwise and remove yolks carefully. Mash the yolks with a fork, moisten with mayonnaise and anchovy paste, add dash of mustard, paprika, and salt and mix to a smooth paste. Refill the hollow in the egg whites. Arrange 3 stuffed halves in each shallow individual greased ramekin. Prepare 1 recipe White Sauce [below] and add 3/4 cup grated American Cheese, 1/8 teaspoon mustard, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Stir until cheese is melted. Pour over eggs. Sprinkle with crumbs. Bake in a hot oven (425° F.) 10 minutes, or until browned.

White Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup rich milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and stir until smooth. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened. Add salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup sauce.

A few of my own notes:

Make the deviled eggs however you usually like them. For me, this meant basically following the recipe above, but omitting anchovy paste.

The only way that I know of to acquire American cheese is by the slice, so I bought it at the deli counter and just added broken up slices to my white sauce. It melts quickly and smoothly!

I assumed “rich milk” to mean whole milk but we generally have 1 or 2% at home and that’s what I used. I should also add that I used 2 cups of it but kept the amounts of butter and flour the same. (As a result, my sauce was probably not as thick as it could have been.)

Have you noticed there aren’t really any definite quantities or amounts listed in the main recipe? Yes, me too. Since I was feeding four – 2 adults and 2 children – I hard boiled and deviled 5 eggs, placing 3 halves in each of 3 dishes. (This left me one half to snack on while cooking. Yum.) I had intended the children to share a dish but the 3 year old ended up devouring the whole thing, leaving me to scramble to find something else for the baby. Oops.

Lastly, I tossed a big handful of baby spinach into the bottom of each greased ramekin to add a little green to the meal. I nestled the eggs in the spinach leaves, then poured the sauce over, topped with breadcrumbs and baked according to the instructions.

The verdict? Not bad! It felt a little decadent pouring a cheesy, creamy sauce over already-decadent deviled eggs but that’s what the spinach is there to balance out. Add some whole wheat toast and voila! A simple light meal.