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Heavenly deviled eggs

Like Easter eggs hidden away for holiday hunts, the deviled variety have a way of showing up unexpectedly.

Almost any celebration or buffet presentation could include this crowd-pleasing classic, says Mary Shaw, who plans a deviled-egg demonstration Saturday at Ashland Food Co-op.

"They're easy to prepare, and everybody loves them," says the Co-op's culinary-education specialist.

It's also easy to put new flavor profiles on deviled eggs, says Shaw, by thinking of them in the same way as omelets.

"You could make a Spanish omelet or an Italian omelet," she says. "They're a blank slate, and you could flavor them in any ethnic way imaginable."

Newer recipes for deviled eggs contain anything from cashews to caviar. Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson adds smoked, hot paprika for heat and garnishes the filling with chopped fresh chives, cooked lobster, cooked bacon, chopped ham, cooked chanterelles, pickled shrimp or pickled okra. In his cookbook "A New Turn in the South," Acheson writes that "deviled eggs need to have a kick, or you have made stuffed eggs and left the devil out. Life gets boring without a little devilish influence."

Here are a few more ways to spice up basic deviled-egg filling:

  • Substitute softened butter for half of the recipe's mayonnaise.
  • Add a dash of Sriracha sauce and garnish with pickled carrots or daikon.
  • Fold in pureed, cooked beets to give eggs a pink hue and top with smoky blue cheese.
  • Stir in 2 teaspoons drained capers and 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh chives.
  • Add 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions and 2 teaspoons curry powder.
  • Blend in 1/4 cup creamy Italian salad dressing and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped, sun-dried tomatoes or brine-cured olives and 1 teaspoon basil, freshly minced or dried.
  • Add 2 teaspoons French-onion dip.
  • For a classic Southern taste, garnish with sliced sweet gherkins, chopped pimientos and a dusting of paprika.
  • For a Mexican flavor, add 1 tablespoon bottled salsa and 1/2; teaspoon cumin. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Flavored in imaginative ways, deviled eggs also an be creatively colored using food-based dyes. The Co-op's demonstration will feature an all-natural egg-dyeing kit made by Ashland-based Earth Paints to decorate hard-boiled eggshells.

"People are more concerned about what's in dyes," says Shaw.

Dyeing the egg's edible white, however, was the focus of a past year's event. Food-based pigments — turmeric for yellow-orange, beets for pink and red cabbage for blue — heighten the visual impact of a deviled-egg platter, says Shaw. After peeling, the eggs were steeped in the dyes, then cut open, the yolks removed and restuffed with the finished filling.

Peeling eggs, as many cooks know, is easiest when they're not so fresh. It's also best to peel them right after cooling, which causes the egg to contract slightly in the shell.

Gently tap an egg on the countertop until its shell is finely crackled all over. Roll the egg between your hands to loosen the shell. Start peeling at the large end, holding the egg under cold, running water to help ease the shell off.

Peeled eggs should be eaten the same day. In the shell, hard-boiled eggs may be refrigerated safely for up to one week. Refrigerate them in their original carton to prevent odor absorption.

"The shell of an egg does breathe," says Shaw.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com. McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.