“But everybody knows how to make egg salad,” said Jerri when I told her what I planned for my next recipe.
The tubs in the deli case at the supermarket tell me different. I was sure that people were not too lazy to boil and chop some eggs and stir in a few dabs of seasoning and mayonnaise. They probably have been deterred by an egg salad recipe that was a bit complicated. Maybe it specified ingredients not in their refrigerators or pantries—quail eggs or black garlic, for instance.
I have nothing against using an unusual ingredient, which helps to explain why our spice rack has now been supplemented by a two shelf rotating rack in a cabinet plus the odd two dozen jars of various things in the pantry. (I really must throw some of them away, especially the ones missing their handwritten labels.)
Some of the dishes I cook require ingredients I once thought rare and mysterious. Pesto is an example, but I use it regularly today. I was sometimes intimidated by instructions as well. I really thought that taking thirty minutes to brown a roux was ridiculous and, furthermore, impossible for someone of my Germanic disposition, but I have learned patience. In the case of a roux I began by making a light brown roux that took only five minutes.
Learning to cook is like learning anything. One starts with a simple exercise and progresses from there. We began by learning how to add and subtract single digits (“Two plus one equals how many?”), to read and write by first learning the alphabet and to walk by taking “baby steps.”
Think of this recipe as a baby step to get you moving towards greater accomplishments in the kitchen. If you don’t have all of the ingredients, leave them out or substitute. You can use whipped salad dressing instead of mayonnaise and omit the celery, onion or relish if there is none in the house.
I guarantee that the result will be edible, and not just in the sense that “All things are edible, but some are edible only once.” Be brave and trust your taster. If you think a little mustard might improve the flavor, stir some in and taste the result. If you like it, fine. If not, you have learned not to do it again. You can still make those egg salad sandwiches in spite of the failed experiment. A little extra salt and pepper might help.
If you are a truly cautious person, start with a half batch. If you remember that a quarter cup equals four tablespoons and a third cup contains five and one-third tablespoons, the math is pretty simple.
6 large eggs
1/4 cup celery in 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water to about an inch above the eggs. Bring them to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for four minutes. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the eggs stand for nine or ten minutes.
Drain the hot water and slip the eggs into a bowl of ice water. Chill them for at least ten minutes. Putting hot eggs or vegetables into ice water is called shocking. Shocking boiled eggs makes them easier to peel. Peel the eggs under a thin stream of cold water and chop them into about a quarter-inch dice.
While the eggs are cooking, clean and dice the celery and mince the onion. Mix the vegetables and relish with the chopped eggs. Stir in the mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lemon juice. If the salad seems too dry, add a little more mayonnaise. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
NOTES: Almost everyone has a favorite recipe for egg salad so feel free to adjust this recipe when you make it. However, if you are new to making egg salad, follow the recipe pretty closely the first time.
You can use reconstituted lemon juice or even cider vinegar for egg salad, marinades, deviled eggs and many other dishes. If, however, a recipe on “Courage in the Kitchen” calls for fresh lemon juice, you really should buy a lemon.