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.

Hot Beef Sandwiches

Two or three times a year my family went on a shopping trip. Hayward, Wisconsin had a good assortment of retail businesses, but like most families living in the wilds of northern Wisconsin, we also ordered things from Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Ward and Spiegel catalogs.

But when Mom wanted to get a new dress for church, she wanted to try it on, and if Rivkins or Abramson’s, Hayward’s two department stores, didn’t have one she liked, we headed to Ashland, Wisconsin, or Duluth, Minnesota. Dad felt the same way about boots and shoes. Though he didn’t find out until many years later, he had broken a bone in one foot when he was a boy, and he had a hard time finding footwear that was comfortable.

Ashland was the nearest “big” city. Over 11,000 people lived there, and the wide main street boasted a dozen stores specializing in men’s and women’s clothing. If Mom happened to see an advertisement for a big sale at one of the big department stores in Duluth, we drove the extra twenty-five miles to a really big city with over 100,000 people living on the hill overlooking Lake Superior.

There was always a shopping trip in August. I used to think it was just because we needed to buy “school clothes,” but the hot August weather may have been a factor. Both Ashland and Duluth enjoyed cool breezes from Lake Superior that gave us a day’s relief from the dog days of summer. Supporting that theory was the fact that nearly every summer, Dad would announce some evening, “Let’s go for a drive to Ashland this Saturday. Be a good time to do some shopping or fill a few jugs at the artesian wells.”

It was also a good time to stop at a cafe for lunch.

Dad and I always had hot beef sandwiches: Thinly sliced roast beef on “store bought” white bread and a scoop of mashed potatoes covered with brown beef gravy. One slice of bread was cut diagonally. Most of the meat was stacked on the middle slice of bread. The two triangle-shaped pieces on each side of the middle slice gave an elegant appearance and supported extra meat and the mashed potatoes. It was a heavenly lunch, especially with a bottle of pop to help wash everything down.

If you’re lucky, you can still find places that serve real hot beef sandwiches. On our last trip back from Kansas, Jerri and I stopped in Kearney, Missouri. Jerri asked the clerk at the gas station if she could recommend any restaurants besides the fast food joints that we all know and love. J.J.’s Homestead was the first one out of her mouth. “Turn right after you go under the Interstate,” she told us.

We would have saved a few minutes if she had told us to turn left on the first street after we drove under I-35, but after a short visit to a business development and a U-turn we arrived in front of “J.J.’s Homestead Homestyle Family Restaurant”.

Diets are forgotten when we are traveling. My policy is that we need plenty of nourishment to support us if we slide into a ditch along the Interstate. Chicken Fried Steak, one of my favorites when we are on a trip to Kansas, caught my eye on the sandwich lunch menu. Right below it, however, was a listing for Hot Beef, described as “Slow-roasted beef piled high on traditional white bread, served open-face, and smothered in our savory beef gravy.” I ordered the beef.

When he took our order, our server told us that J.J. referred to Jesse James, the famous outlaw who was born about two miles from where we were seated. It made the meal even more special for me, as I thought of old Grandpa Weingarten who told me he remembered the bank robbery that ended the crime spree of the James and Younger gang in Northfield, Minnesota, when he was a boy.

After finishing off a rather large serving of beef, potatoes and gravy on two very good slices of white bread, I complimented the young man on how good the beef was. He told us that on Mondays when they roasted the meat, customers commented on how good it smelled. It was a wonderful lunch that took me back to those days when we sat around an oilcloth-covered table in a comfortable restaurant and enjoyed a meal out. The major difference was that we sat in a booth and were served by a friendly young man with a tattoo on his arm instead of a friendly young woman with pigtails.

Hot roast beef sandwiches are easy to make and wonderful to eat. The recipe is simple:

INGREDIENTS:

Enough roast beef to make the number of servings you need
Two slices of ordinary (or “traditional” if you wish) white bread for each serving
1/2 to 3/4 cup of mashed potatoes for each serving
Plenty of beef gravy

PROCEDURE:

Slice the beef thin. Heat the meat, potatoes and gravy. Cut half the slices of bread diagonally to make triangles. Put a full slice of bread slightly to the left of center on the plate. Place a triangle of bread on each side. Pile beef on the center slice, allowing a little to fall on the triangles. Put a big scoop of mashed potatoes to the right of the beef. Smoother everything with gravy.

What could be simpler? Use leftover beef and gravy from yesterday’s pot roast and use this easy recipe to make the mashed potatoes.

NOTES: If you don’t have enough leftover gravy, you can make more in a few minutes: Make a roux by melting four tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Stir in four tablespoons of all-purpose flour and cook it over moderate heat until it turns medium dark brown. Season the roux with a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, dashes of celery salt and basil. Carefully blend two cups of beef broth into the roux and cook three or four minutes, stirring constantly, until it is smooth and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

If you want a darker gravy, you can stir in a little brown gravy sauce.