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.
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.