Egg Salad

Egg salad isn’t something that I eat frequently.  It wasn’t something that we ever really ate when I was a child, so it’s never really been on my radar.  However, a recent Cooking email digest from the New York Times made me start thinking about eggs and how to make a really satisfying sandwich.

Egg salad requires, at a minimum, three components – hard cooked eggs, mayonnaise, and some sort of pickle or vinegar.  From that basic assemblage, you can add just about anything you like as long as the resulting salad holds together at the end.

My biggest complaint about these sandwich spread salads – be it egg, tuna, ham, or whatever – is that many variations combine large chunks of protein with a minimal amount of dressing.  It may yield a lighter filling, but the sandwich always ends up falling apart.  My goal here was to produce a more homogeneous egg salad to make something spreadable and more cohesive, so here I use “sieved” eggs.  After hard cooking the eggs, simply run them through a food mill (as I did) or sieve, or grate them on a box grater.  The result is a pile of fine hard-cooked egg crumbs which will stay bound to the mayonnaise.

Pickles provide a little bit of texture as well as some acid to brighten up the dish.  I use some naturally fermented dill pickles here, but vinegar pickles, capers, or other pickled vegetables would work well.  I would probably avoid anything too sweet, though; bread and butter pickles won’t really provide the needed punch.

Mayonnaise is the thing that will hold all of this mess together.  Julia Child has a method for “sauce tartare,” a mayonnaise made with hard cooked egg yolk rather than raw; I thought this might be an interesting method to increase the shelf life of the egg salad sandwich.  However, I simply could not get the oil to emulsify using the hard cooked egg.  More experimentation will be needed; in the meantime, I whipped up a traditional mayo so that I could actually eat something.

To round out the egg salad, I raided the garden for fresh herbs.  To add just a little hint of spice, I threw in a couple teaspoons of curry powder.  Do your own thing here, though – other spices, diced sauteed mushrooms, anchovies(?!), whatever else you like!  Here, I’ve added some homemade pickled cherry peppers.

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Herbed Egg Salad

4 whole eggs plus one egg yolk
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced pickle
1/4 cup minced herbs (here, equal parts parsley, dill, and chive)
2 tbsp curry powder
salt and pepper

Make the mayonnaise: whisk the egg yolk until runny, then whisk in mustard and lemon juice.  Slowly add the vegetable oil, whisking constantly – start by adding drops at a time, and gradually increase the rate as the mayo emulsifies.  When about 1/3 of the oil has been incorporated, the rest of the oil can be added in larger batches.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Hard cook the eggs: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then carefully add cold eggs directly to the boiling water by lowering them in with slotted spoon or a sieve.  Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 11 minutes.  Drain and cool the eggs under cold running tap water.

Place the eggs in a food mill set over a bowl and crank until they pass completely through.  Add in the minced herbs, pickle, and curry powder.  Add enough mayo to fully combine all of the ingredients, about 1/2 cup.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on crusty bread.

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Sufferin’ Succotash

It’s getting to be that time of summer when the corn and the beans all start ripening and the grocery store is almost paying you to take them somewhere, anywhere, just get them out of here!  That makes it a perfect opportunity to load up on fresh produce and make succotash.

Just don’t do what I did and go looking for ingredients weeks before they’re actually ripe.

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Nicoise

I am a terrible gardener.

We have friends who have gardens, and they always seem to grow bushels of beautiful vegetables.  “Just throw some seeds in the ground,” they say.  “Stuff just grows all over the place!”

My harvest always seems to be dwarfed by the amount of effort and care I put in to the garden.  The amount of time and money put in to one tiny zucchini can be very dispiriting.  However, there is one plant that I can grow reliably every year, that will tolerate my inattentiveness and ignorance.

Green beans.

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Ragu – Chuck Yeah!

Screw Bolognese sauce.  If you want a ton of flavor on pasta (or chickpeas, or polenta, or…), then ragu is the way to do.  This isn’t canned pasta sauce – it’s a rich, hearty meat dish cooked low and slow in flavorful stock and wine.  It takes a ton of time but little prep work, so if you have a half hour to focus on dinner and then need to do something else, make a ragu.

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More Farmers Market Finds

We have a mushroom guy at our farmers market.  I love mushrooms, and he usually has something interesting that we can’t get at the grocery stores.  This trip, he had some chestnut mushrooms.  “Just trim the dirty ends off and saute them whole,” he instructed me.  So I did, and then added them back in to a sauce cooked with the mushroom fond.  With some greens from the farmers market and a nice hunk of pork from the butcher’s Meat Club, this meal was about as “local” as possible.

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Pork rib roast with broccoli rabe and mushroom sauce

1 pork rib roast (1 bone per person)1/2 lb broccoli rabe
1/4 pint chestnut mushrooms
1/2 shallot
1 clove garlic
1/4-1/2 cup pork stock
~2 tbp white wine
2-3 tbp butter
parsley
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450F. Rub the whole roast with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place in a roasting pan bones down. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the fat cap is nicely browned and crisp. Reduce the heat to 350F and cook until done. I aimed for 150 in the fattest part, but I’d probably go even lower next time – 140 probably. Good pork can be a little pink on the inside.

Mince the shallots and garlic.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Trim the broccoli rabe, removing woody stems. Blanche in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes and drain. Remove as much water as possible! In a medium-high skillet, add about 1/4 of the shallot with a little olive oil and saute briefly until just starting to brown, and then throw in about 1/4 of the garlic until just fragrant. Add the rabe and saute for about 5 minutes, until it browns slightly. Remove from the heat but leave it in the pan.

To make the sauce, first trim the mushrooms of any dirty bits on the bottom. Heat about a tablespoon of butter in a pan and saute the mushrooms until well browned, then remove the mushrooms from the pan. Add the remaining shallots and saute until brown, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the stock and wine (I also threw in a splash of brandy), and simmer until reduced by about 1/3. Add in a few tablespoons of butter, small chunks at a time, but putting the pan over low-ish heat and swirling the pan until each chunk is melted and emulsified. Add butter until the sauce is the thickness you like. Mix the mushrooms back in to the sauce.

Just before serving, sprinkle shredded parm over the rabe and place the pan in the oven until the cheese browns unevenly. Place a heap of rabe on each plate. Slice the roast so in to general pork chop size (each person should get one bone) and plate. Spoon the mushrooms and sauce over the pork and rabe, and then sprinkle minced parsley.