Here's what's great about deviled eggs: They're delicious and infinitely variable. Here's what's not: They can't really be tailored to the infinitely variable preferences of a group unless you hand each guest their own mixing bowl. That's where these deconstructed deviled eggs come in. They're just as delicious, just as luxurious—possibly more so—and even easier to make (which is quite a statement, given how easy regular deviled eggs already are). As we get into picnic and cookout season, this is going to be my go-to hors d'oeuvre for parties. It'll also be my go-to for breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid-morning snack, mid-afternoon snack, midnight snack, 4 a.m. drunken snack,* and 5:30 a.m. wake-up snack.**
* Yeah, right. I have a kid.
** Sadly, this will happen...because I have a kid.
Basic deviled eggs get their creamy texture and layered flavor from hard-boiled yolks mixed with mayonnaise and other seasonings, which are then piped back into the whites. But this recipe takes a markedly different approach, starting with the eggs, which I cook at a boil for just seven minutes before shocking them in ice water. We've tested the best way to make hard-boiled eggs and found that starting at a boil increases the likelihood that the eggs will be easy to shell. Meanwhile, that seven-minute cooking time is just long enough to turn the yolks silky and custardy, without fully hardening and drying them out. That's a good thing, because we're not going to remove them from their respective egg-white cups. Instead, all the seasonings, flavorings, and mayonnaise are going right on top.
This is an instance in which I prefer to use hand-whisked mayo over the machine-blended kind. It's saucier and silkier, with a brighter flavor than one made in a blender or food processor using the exact same ingredients. I know that for a lot of people, the idea of making homemade mayonnaise is already a daunting one, and that a hand-whisked one is pretty much out of the question. But I'd encourage anyone feeling that way to give it a shot—it's much easier than most people make it out to be, and the results in a simple dish like this are worth it. Besides, there's not much else to do for this recipe, so it's hardly asking too much to spend a few more minutes on the mayo. When you do it, just remember to add the oil incredibly slowly, fully whisking it into the egg base before adding more. The biggest risk with handmade mayo is overwhelming the base with too much oil, which usually leads to the sauce breaking.
In these photos, I've topped each egg half with a generous dollop of the mayo, along with an anchovy fillet, some capers, and herbs like chive and chervil, and I've finished it with some good extra-virgin olive oil and fresh black pepper. You don't have to follow my lead, though. You can top these with whatever you want: salmon roe, a few pieces of diced shrimp, bacon shards, crumbled cheese, a dusting of Old Bay seasoning, et cetera. (If you do use anchovies, make sure to use some good salt- or high-quality oil-packed ones; it'll make a big difference.)
If you're entertaining, you can also let everyone assemble their own by putting out a platter of the halved eggs, a bowl of mayo, and a wide range of condiments. That way, you get all the benefits of a classic deviled egg, with the bonus of total customizability. It's hard to argue with that.