South of the border deviled eggs

South of the border deviled eggsSince we now know all there is to know about egg whites, we’re delving deeper (literally) into eggs and tackling the yolk. This is the first post in a series exploring the other half of the mighty egg. Check back soon for more on the science of egg yolks and, of course, yummy recipes!

Deviled eggs are pretty hard to resist: rich, creamy filling packed into a convenient shove-it-in-your-mouth container. And as long as the creator doesn’t add so much salt that no one else will want to eat them and they will be his, all his (not that this has ever happened…), they’re generally just as tasty as they look. But they’re also usually just slight variations on the same formula, with a touch more mayo here or a dash of hot sauce there, and I figured it was time for the classic deviled egg to take a little vacation.

Thirsty kitten

So we head south to Mexico for a trio of deviled eggs showing off their adventurous side. The cerveza with lime is just a few steps off the beaten path, with a hint of Corona and lime added to a traditional filling. The guacamole brings some avocado to the party, pairing your favorite guac flavors with added richness from the egg yolks. And finishing off strong, my personal favorite, the spicy three chile balances heat from a homemade chile paste with a touch of sweet. It’s more of a time investment than mashing yolks with some mayo and mustard, and I know the chiles in particular can seem very intimidating, but I promise the end result will blow your mind.

A quick note on cooking with dried chiles: they seem complicated, and I’ll admit there are a lot of steps. Let’s do a run-through to explain why we need each of them. First we toast the chiles to bring out flavor, then soak them to rehydrate and remove stems and seeds for texture and to reduce spice. Next, we grind them with some spices in a food processor, strain the puree to remove skin bits, and finally cook the sauce to reduce bitterness. It’s a lot of steps, but each one plays a key role and only takes a few minutes. Also please remember to protect your hands with gloves! Those of us with contact lenses always learn about chile oil on fingers the hard way.

Dried chiles

So what’s in a yolk, and why are they so delicious? First, the yolk is basically an all-you-can-eat buffet for the developing chick, so it’s full of nutrition that we humans like just as much as baby chickens do. The yolk holds all of the fat (about 6 grams) and more than 3/4 of the total calories (about 64 of 84), even though it’s less than half the weight of the white. That yummy fat as well as protein gives the yolk its richness.

Separated eggs

But it’s not just about what we find in an egg yolk, it’s also how it’s put together. Think about cutting open a hard-boiled egg: the white is smooth and solid while the yolk crumbles into pieces. Turns out the yolk is subdivided into smaller and smaller packets like nesting dolls. First layer: the yolk membrane keeps the yolk and the white separate, containing the whole yolk. Second layer: more membranes encase individual spheres (about 1/10 of a millimeter in diameter), which separate into the crumbs we see in hard-boiled eggs. Third layer: the spheres are filled with a soup of proteins and even more tiny spheres. Fourth layer: those tiny spheres hold more water, more proteins (these guys have lots of iron), and little clusters of molecules hanging out together. The clusters have fat in the center, protected by protein, cholesterol, and a phospholipid, which bridges fat and water.

Onion rings

There are a few takeaways that we’ll be coming back to in future posts. The structure of the yolk is really cool. Okay, that’s maybe not the most useful one. We will need to know that yolks are rich in protein and fat, that they have a little water but not as much as the whites, and that they contain those clusters of fat and phospholipids.

South of the border deviled eggs

Perfect for all of those summer backyard barbecues, these are deviled eggs like no other. They are inspired by Mexican flavors: spicy three chile builds on a homemade chile paste for a hot but sweet burn, guacamole throws avocado into the mix, and cerveza with lime brings a cold beer to a whole new level. Pick your favorite (mine is three chile, for sure) or try all three! The recipes below are based on four whole eggs or eight halves for each type. Note: if you want to make your own mayonnaise (it’s easy! Try it!) for these eggs, try replacing the lemon juice with lime to kick it up just a little.

Yield: 24 deviled eggs

1 dozen eggs

Spicy three chile:

¼ of an onion

2 cloves garlic

2 dried ancho chiles

2 dried New Mexico chiles

2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce

1 T. adobo sauce

¼ c. water

½ t. oregano

¼ t. cumin

1 t. vegetable oil

½ t. brown sugar

¼ t. salt

2 T. mayonnaise

Cilantro, for garnish


2 whole avocados

2 T. finely minced onion

2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced

Dash cumin

Dash cayenne

Dash salt

Juice of ¼ lime

Tortilla chips, for garnish


¼ c. Mexican beer (I used Corona)

2 T. mayonnaise

Juice of ¼ lime

Dash salt

Thin lime wedges, for garnish


Start by boiling the eggs: place your eggs in a large pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, let boil for one minute, then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Dump out the hot water, shake the eggs to break the shells slightly, and place them in ice water for about 20 minutes. Peel.

Cut each egg in half lengthwise and remove the crumbly yolk. Use a spatula to press the yolk through a strainer for very fine fillings, or just smash with a fork. Divide the yolk into three equal portions for the fillings (below).

For the spicy three chile eggs: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the onion into slices about ¼ inch thick and remove the outer papery layers of the garlic (leave each individual clove unpeeled). Roast the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, then remove the garlic and turn over the onion slices. Roast for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the dried chiles. Place them on a hot, dry skillet for about 1 minute per side, until they become fragrant. Soak the chiles in hot tap water for about 30 minutes.

Once the chiles are soft, remove the stems, seeds, and veins. Please wear gloves! Place the chile flesh in a food processor with the chipotles, adobo sauce, water, oregano, and cumin. Process until the pieces are quite small, about the consistency of chunky pesto. Pour the puree into a strainer and press through with a spatula.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Carefully pour in the sauce (it will sputter) and cook until it darkens and loses its bitterness, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and salt to taste.

Combine 1/3 of the crumbled egg yolk with the chile paste (you should have about 2 tablespoons) and the mayonnaise, and mix well.

For the guacamole eggs: mash the avocados with the onion, garlic, and spices. Combine with 1/3 of the crumbled .yolk and mix well.

For the cerveza eggs: place the beer in a small pot over low heat and reduce it by half, until you have 2 tablespoons of liquid left. Let cool.

Combine 1/3 of the crumbled egg yolk with the mayonnaise and mix well. Add the concentrated beer, lime juice, and salt, and mix again.

To fill the eggs: spoon each filling into a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off and pipe into the egg white halves. Top the spicy three chile eggs with cilantro, the guacamole eggs with tortilla chips, and the cerveza eggs with thin lime wedges.

Egg cooking from The Science of Good Cooking from Cook’s Illustrated, chile paste adapted from All about egg yolks from McGee.

South of the border deviled eggs