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If you're from the South, you know that Easter dinner just isn't Easter dinner without deviled eggs.
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Has the Easter Bunny left a lot of hardboiled eggs at your house? Don't just toss them out, use them in deviled eggs.

The Easter ham is on the table, the potato salad's ready to go. The corn pudding is waiting, and the young ones are biting at the bit and ready to eat.

But if there are no deviled eggs to be found, you might as well pack up the ham, tell the Easter bunny to hop back down the rabbit hole and head home. In the South, deviled eggs are pretty much a must-have on any Easter menu.

"They always have been because of their versatility and taste," says Serena Schaffner, director of marketing communications for the American Egg Board. "Additionally, we always hear from folks that they love deviled eggs because it taps into their nostalgic side — whether it's an old family recipe or just something their moms used to make all the time."

Hope Treider, buyer for prepared foods at Whole Market on Manufacturers Road, says sales of deviled eggs go up in spring, particularly around Easter. And, as demand increases, so do her orders.

Whole Foods sells three varieties:

* Classic eggs with mayo and pickle relish — the most popular of all, Treider says.

* Spring herb with fresh chives and parsley.

* Spicy siracha.

The latter two have been on the market for about a year, Treider says. "They're different and really starting to catch on," she adds.

Beyond all the flavors and varieties of deviled eggs, there's one task that frustrates many when it comes to making their own: Peeling the eggs.

One important thing to consider is the age of the eggs, Schaffner says. Fresh is best is obviously the standard for most foods, but when it comes to peeling eggs, older ones are better, she says. And the Egg Board also recommends using classic white eggs rather than brown eggs since brown are a little harder to peel.

So why are fresh eggs harder to peel? It's chemistry.

When an egg is fresh, the albumen — the egg white — is slightly acidic, making it bind firmly to the protein keratin, which is present in the translucent skin that surrounds the albumen. As the egg ages, however, the albumen becomes less acidic, weakening its bond with keratin and making it easier to separate the egg white from its translucent sheath.

The Egg Board has experimented with various cooking methods for making eggs that will make them easier to peel — and guess what? — they found one.

"This method turns out eggs that are incredibly easy to peel," Schaffner says. "We found that this method is 30 percent faster than our classic hard-boiling method and almost always guarantees easy-to-peel eggs, every time — no matter how fresh they are.

"It's a game changer when it comes to hard-boiling."

* Heat 1/2 to 1 inch of water to boiling in a large saucepan over high heat.

* Carefully place steamer insert into pan over boiling water or proceed to next step if not using a steamer insert.

* Carefully add eggs using a large spoon or tongs. Cover. Continue cooking 12 minutes for large eggs (13 minutes for extra-large eggs).

* Cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then gently tap large end of egg on countertop until shell is finely crackled. Starting peeling at large end, holding egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.

As for versatility, there's not a more chameleon-like food than deviled eggs. There are numerous ways to prepare them that range from sweet to savory with many flavors in between.

"One of the most recent trends among restaurants is reinventing the deviled egg by putting small twists on the classics," Schaffner says, "whether it's adding in sriracha instead of hot sauce or offering deviled egg flights, usually made up of three deviled eggs on one plate, each with a different kind of topping or ingredient mixed in.

"We've also seen deviled eggs go multicultural, where chefs might add kimchee for an Asian twist, crisp prosciutto for an Italian twist or jalapenos and cilantro for a Mexican twist."

Here are some recipes from incredibleegg.org that give a touch of flare to an American Easter classic, plus one from hamptoncreek.com that features sriracha.

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If you're from the South, you know that Easter dinner just isn't Easter dinner without deviled eggs.

Tex-Mex Deviled Eggs

6 hardboiled eggs, peeled

1/3 cup shredded taco-seasoned or pepper Jack cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons minced green onions

Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks to small bowl and mash yolks with fork. Add cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and green onions; mix well. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon yolk mixture into each egg white half. Refrigerate, covered, to blend flavors. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped chives or green onions if desired. Makes 1 dozen deviled eggs.

Colorful Easter Deviled Eggs

12 hardboiled eggs, peeled

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or chives

Pastel food coloring and distilled white vinegar for coloring egg whites (instructions follow)

Toppers: Chives, crab meat with fresh dill, small cooked shrimp with chives, smoked salmon, capers and chives, diced red bell peppers and Italian parsley, or steamed asparagus tips (optional)

Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks to medium bowl. Reserve 20 white halves. Finely chop remaining 4 white halves.

Mash yolks with fork. Add chopped whites, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper; mix well. Add dill; mix well. Refrigerate, covered.

To color egg whites: Place egg whites in glass jars or tall glasses. For each color, combine 1 cup hot water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and a few drops of desired food coloring to reach desired color. Pour coloring mixture over egg whites to cover completely. Let stand 2 to 10 minutes to achieve desired color.

Remove colored egg whites from dye mixture with slotted spoon; pat dry with paper towels. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon yolk mixture into each egg white half. Garnish eggs with chive laces or other toppers, as desired. Refrigerate until serving.

Bacon-Cheddar Deviled Eggs

14 hardboiled eggs, peeled

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup crumbled cooked bacon

1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or green onion tops

Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks to medium bowl. Reserve 24 egg white halves. Finely chop remaining 4 white halves.

Mash yolks with fork. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice and pepper; mix well. Add chopped egg whites, bacon, cheese and chives; mix well.

Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon yolk mixture into each reserved egg white half. Refrigerate, covered, to blend flavors.

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Sriracha Deviled Eggs are a spicy take on the familiar food.

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

9 hardboiled eggs, peeled

4 tablespoon sriracha

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon shallot, minced

2 tablespoon roasted red pepper, diced small

6 ounces chorizo (optional)

3 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Cut the eggs lengthwise. Remove the yolks and reserve them in a medium bowl.

Arrange the egg white halves on a tray, cover, and store in fridge.

Mash the yolks until the crumbles start to smooth out.

Add the sriracha, mustard, vinegar, shallot and red pepper to the yolks. Fold together until creamy and smooth. Chill the mixture for 10 minutes to let it set.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and add the chorizo. With a stiff spatula or spoon, work the chorizo into very small pieces while cooking. Avoid overcooking and drying it out.

Remove from skillet and drain grease from the chorizo. Stir the cooked chorizo into the Just Mayo yolk mixture. Place the mixture into a piping bag with a large piping tip.

Pipe egg filling into each egg white half.

Serve garnished with cilantro and paprika.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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