Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Harry Houdini’s Deviled Eggs (RECIPE FAIL)

I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook but I sometimes take detours along the way. I’m going to be dusting off a recipe that I made a year ago but was so bad that I decided to bury it. But then I realized that my most popular recipes are really gross, so here we go!

You can catch up on all my past taste tests here.

The Stag Cookbook is a rather punch-downy attempt at humor, the central premise being that men were oppressed in the kitchen and that mean women laughed at their efforts. Aww, what poor wittle bunnies. Didums burn the toast and get heckled? We women would have been ever so much sorrier for you if we were allowed to have our own lines of credit without a male guardian before the 1970s.

I wrote about the book’s obnoxiousness here but basically it is a bunch of male celebrities sharing their best recipes (or “recipes” as the case may be) to show that men could indeed cook. Needless to say, this cookbook did not make much of a case for their prowess at food prep.

I chose Harry Houdini’s deviled eggs to try because I love deviled eggs and Houdini is a rare early 20th century celebrity with serious modern name recognition. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, Harry. Harry, you needed to stick to the handcuffs.

Like I said, I made this recipe a year ago and shot the results with an older camera. I also came down with a rather bad cold that night, which I will happily blame on the Stag Cookbook.

The recipe isn’t exactly precise but that’s pretty normal in retro cookbooks. I boiled the eggs using my usual method of poking the large end with a pin and boiling them in water and baking soda for 11 minutes. At my altitude, this produces a beautiful egg with a slightly gelatinous center.


I have no idea what nonsense Houdini is spouting about slicing off the end of an egg because my egg halves stay up just fine. Unless he’s slicing them through the equator but who does that?

I mashed the yolks with two tablespoons of melted butter, a little cayenne, a few splashes of white white vinegar and a pinch of mustard. (The recipe did not specify prepared mustard or powdered. I used powder because there was already vinegar in the thing.)

I intended to pipe the paste into the egg whites in a decorative manner but one taste and I knew that it wasn’t worth the effort. I just smashed it into the whites and taste tested as quickly as I could to get it over with.

Score: 1 out of 5. Oh that was vile and a waste of beautiful eggs. The butter doesn’t work with the egg once it unmelts and the spices are uninspired. The vinegar is just kind of unpleasant in this recipe and there’s no creaminess to soften it. Further, eggs need salt to taste there best and while there is salt in the dressing, there is none in the eggs. (I didn’t make the salad. Why toss good ingredients into a bad recipe?) It just was sharp and weird and not at all tasty.

We ended up scooping out the filling and eating the whites. One taster quipped that these egg were magical: we made the centers disappear.


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  1. Mim (@crinolinerobot)

    The recipe for the yolks isn’t *that* far off making mayonnaise (egg yolk, vinegar, oil, mustard), so it’s surprising it didn’t have a slightly mayonnaisey quality. Though actual quantities might have helped; old recipes are a git for that.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I think the main difference is that the yolks have been cooked so the other ingredients couldn’t emulsify or merge with them quite as well. I really blame the melted butter because it played hell with the texture and didn’t offer enough flavor to compensate.

  2. Marie Roget

    Despite bringing a horrible, lingering cold back with me from The Frozen North (my complete sympathies for your sinus infection and everyone’s else’s various winter-related ailments), even in my diminished state I can see Houdini’s Eggs are not worth the time to prepare. They succeed in the one thing I thought difficult: making deviled eggs totally uninteresting 😦

  3. donnahill441

    I expect there was no mayo because Houdini was a jew? I’m almost entirely confident he was not one to keep Kosher. Perhaps his upbringing? In any case, ick. I loved deviled eggs, and must be liberal with the mayo!

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Well, since mayo is made from eggs, I don’t think that could be the reason. Substituting dairy for eggs (butter for mayo) would have made them non-pareve, which would have complicated their incorporation into kosher meals. Maybe it had something to do with preservation? Butter could be salted and keeps pretty well but I imagine mayo could be risky in the days when not everybody had an icebox.

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