Eggstraordinarily Easy Egg Salad

“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.

INGREDIENTS:
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

PROCEDURE:

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.

Patsy’s Potato Salad

My sister Patsy was grumbling as she made potato salad for our Fourth of July picnic this year. At least, that’s what my brother-in-law Patrick told me. When I looked a little confused, he explained, “It was because she was having to write down quantities and how she did things for you.”

I had emailed her some questions about the list of ingredients for her potato salad (“I use potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, vinegar, milk….”) that she had jotted down for me. I am glad that I did, because I now have a recipe to share that you might like better than Jerri’s Mom’s Potato Salad.

Patsy explains that her recipe is actually our mother’s recipe, slightly tweaked by Patsy who leaves out the onion from part of it and adds a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and onion powder. Patsy says that Mom never wrote down the recipe. She simply mixed the ingredients together until the salad looked and tasted right.

Recipes do keep evolving, so feel free to tweak this one if you like. My suggestion, however, is that you make it this way the first time. You may not want to make any changes.

INGREDIENTS:

5 lbs. potatoes (about 15 medium)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion
8 large eggs
2 cups mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing
1 T prepared yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (optional replacement for 1/4 tsp. regular salt)
1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T sugar
1 T vinegar
1/2 cup milk

PROCEDURE:

Boil the potatoes in unsalted water with the jackets on until they are tender but not soft. Drain them and set them aside to cool, which will take at least an hour.  While the potatoes are cooling, clean and chop an onion into a quarter inch dice. This is also the time to cook the eggs.

Cover the eggs with an inch of cold water and bring them to a boil. Boil them four or five minutes, cover them and set the pan aside for another nine or ten minutes. Drain and cool the eggs for ten minutes in ice water, then peel and set them aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes into a half inch dice until there are eight or nine cups of potatoes in a large bowl. Chop five of the eggs into about a quarter inch dice and mix them with the potatoes. If you’re making the salad with onion, mix it in now. If, like Patsy, you are giving your guests a choice of onion or no onion, wait to add the onion until you have mixed the salad with the sauce.

Make the sauce in a separate bowl. Combine the mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing with the mustard, salt, celery salt, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and milk and mix well. Pour this sauce over the potatoes and eggs. Gently toss the potato and egg mixture to coat everything with the sauce. Add a little more milk if necessary.

At this point Patsy moves one-third of the salad to a smaller bowl. She stirs a quarter teaspoon of onion powder into this bowl and stirs the chopped onion into the bowl with the two-thirds left in it.

To finish off the salads (if you make both versions), move them into two appropriate serving bowls. Smooth the salads and garnish the tops with slices of the the three remaining eggs.  Then sprinkle some paprika on top for a nice, festive look.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate until serving. 

NOTES: Patsy writes, “The salad is fine the next day as the flavors blend, but I think making it the day you will use it is the best if that is possible.  Just tastes fresher to me.”

She also noted, “Some people may want to add fresh celery, radishes, dill or sweet pickles, just any extras that they might want.  The nice thing about making the salad yourself is that you can customize it to fit your tastes. Who knows what else people might like in their potato salad…. green pepper, jalapenos, bacon, ….”

I like Jerri’s Mom’s potato salad just a tiny bit more than Patsy’s, but they are both delicious. I have eaten versions with some of the optional ingredients Patsy mentions, but I prefer my potato salad like a good brandy: Straight Up!

Jerri’s Mom’s Potato Salad recipe calls for more salt. Jerri’s mother used to say, “Potatoes and cucumbers take more salt than you think they need,” so you may have to add a little more.