Spring is the season of rebirth, bunnies, Peeps and gaily colored eggs. Those brilliant hues are absolutely charming on Easter Sunday, but as the days pass, those cartons of hard-boiled splendor trigger mild panic. No one wants to eat eggs anymore -- and that smell has pervaded your refrigerator.
Behold your salvation, because when it comes to the week after Easter, there are few things more saintly than a deviled egg.
We tend to think of these classic stuffed eggs as a fairly modern development, a midcentury nosh to serve at a "Mad Men" viewing party or other retro affair. But deviled eggs actually date back to ancient Rome, when the toga'd crowd stuffed them with raisins, spices and cheese. Every country has its own riff on the theme, and they acquired their sinful moniker in the 18th century, when deviled meant hot or spicy.
Deviled eggs are a classic, but these days they're enjoying a creative renaissance as hipster fare in trendy bars from San Francisco's Hog & Rocks, which tops them with country ham and fried oysters, to San Diego's Lion's Share, where they're adorned with caviar, truffles, prosciutto and quail confit. But even in their purest form, yolks mashed with mayo and a bit of spice, they're irresistible.
Food writer Michael Ruhlman calls them "easy, quick, inexpensive crowd pleasers," whose only drawback is "that they're too good. You want to eat more than you should."
At the moment, there may not be a bigger egg expert around. Ruhlman's lengthy list of cookbooks includes three French Laundry volumes, co-authored with Thomas Keller. Ruhlman's newest, "Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient" (Little Brown, $40, 236 pages) was prompted by the question "What can't you do with an egg?" The results include more than 100 recipes plus a 5-foot-long flow chart detailing all the different possibilities.
The egg is a symbol of rebirth in every culture, Ruhlman says, and "a miracle in the kitchen -- a miracle of economy, hugely nutritious, extremely versatile and suited to everything from a hasty nutritious lunch to four-star cuisine."
OK, but what are we to do with this surfeit of post-holiday egginess?
"Deviled eggs or egg salad," Ruhlman says. "Make them nice and spicy and fun."
Ruhlman favors variety in his egg salads and deviled egg fillings, making them with a vibrant curry mayonnaise one day and fresh herbs -- tarragon and chives, for example, or parsley and chervil -- the next.
Ree Drummond, the best-selling Oklahoma author, Food Network star and ridiculously successful Pioneer Woman blogger, likes to bedevil her eggs with even more heat. The California expat has had a deep love for the eggy nosh since childhood -- she once ate 11 deviled eggs in one sitting, she confesses in her newest book, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays" (William Morrow, $29.99, 388 pages).
"Life is too short," she says, "for deviled egg-related regrets."
Drummond spikes hers with generous lashings of Sriracha -- or goes elegant with a smoked salmon, caper and red onion variation on the theme. Terry Golson, the Boston chef and devoted chicken-tender behind "The Farmstead Egg Guide and Cookbook" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99, 192 pages), prefers hers with curried shrimp. And Ashley English, whose new "Handmade Gatherings" (Roost Books, $34.95, 258 pages) provides an irresistible blend of seasonal potluck party ideas, recipes, crafts and activities, gives her deviled eggs a light springtime twist with lemon zest, fresh springtime dill and a mixture of olive oil, mayonnaise and mustard.
"I am a very judicious mayonnaise user," she says. "You have to temper that enthusiasm. Mayonnaise is egg-based, so too much is like slapping you with egginess. Olive oil helps it be creamy."
English, who keeps a flock of backyard hens, throws a big Easter eve party each year, partly because she is "so blessed with eggs, we have more than we know what to do with." There's an egg roll, a dyeing station and egg dishes aplenty, including an egg salad made with caramelized onions and crumbled bacon.
It's devilishly good.