Picnic quality in the comfort of your own home! ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

18 June 2007

Picnic quality in the comfort of your own home!

It is simultaneously picnic and non-picnic time. On the one hand, it's clearly picnic time: what passes for rain is over; it's breezy outside; the trees have sufficient leaves for some shade; it's hot. On the other hand, California is a state full of allergens, such that lying in the grass with bits of tree bloom falling on your face is not really the best idea. Plus you have to avoid the sun: problematic at one in the afternoon.

The solution, clearly, is patio furniture. Also no sun in the backyard at one in the afternoon. We have the furniture, but the sun bit remains problematic. Wide open sliding door next to the kitchen table it is, then.

Picnic food:
-egg salad sandwiches
-white wine

You know you want to come to my picnic! Admit it!

The secret to egg salad sandwich is right here:


Use of much of it as you can possibly stand, and nothing can go wrong. I stripped about 3/4 of a bunch for four eggs' worth of salad. This was the right amount. You cannot have too much dill. Why does no one treat dill with the same sort of love and desire as basil? What is wrong with people? DILL. Grow it in your backyard for fifty cents, and it will love you and take care of you forever.

The other trick to egg salad, and really anything involving hardboiled eggs, is to get the eggs boiled properly. The best hardboiled eggs have the tiniest bit of dampness in the middle of the yolk, and no repulsive green oxidation around the edges.

How to hardboil eggs properly:

Put your eggs in an appropriately sized saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Put the whole business on the stove and heat the water to boiling. When it boils, start timing. You can take the eggs out as early as seven minutes if you want a really dark, mushy yolk. I like to leave them nine to ten minutes, for the bare dimple of damp. Dump the hot water and immediately cover with cold. You can either do this in a different dish or in the same pan. If you use the hot pan, run a bunch of cold water over the outside and bottom to stop heat conduction from the metal. Let the eggs sit and cool for maybe five minutes. To peel, whack them all over with the back of a spoon to crack everything all over, then start from the wide end. At this point the shell structure is flexible, so it's really easy to get under the membrane and peel everything off quickly. Rinse to get rid of any fragments, and you're done.

The benefits of this process are threefold. 1. Yolk quality is perfect: slightly damp, totally chalk-yellow, and correctly textured. 2. White is sufficiently cooked but still soft and creamy instead of plasticky. 3. The peel comes instantaneously off.

97% traditional picnic egg salad

hardboiled eggs
green onion, shallot, and/or chive
fresh dill!
fresh parsley if you want that too
salt and pepper
mayo and decent mustard

This is nearly the only acceptable use for mayonnaise. The other one is the dipping sauce for yam fries at Seva in Ann Arbor. Sometime I'll get to that as well.

Boil eggs.

While eggs are boiling, do all your prep. Get out a lot of dill, strip it from its branches, and chop it up. Get out a bunch of green onions, peel and trim them, and chop them up. Get out some fresh parsley, again strip from stems, and chop it up. I used close to equal volumes of dill and green onion, but only a little parsley. You can change the proportions however you like, as long as you use plenty of dill.

If you want any other vegetables, chop them up too. You should add radishes if you can. Radish is the other best thing that ever happened to egg salad; we just didn't have one.

Put everything in a bowl.

When the eggs are done, chop them up. I like big chunks as opposed to tiny egg mince. Add them to the bowl.

Now is the time for mayo and mustard. Be sparing with the mayo and generous with the mustard. I used one large spoonful of mayo and one small of mustard for the aforementioned four eggs. This was almost too much mayo. Add just a sparing amount, mix, and see if you like the proportions.

Taste; salt and pepper.

Toast bread, spread with gigantic amounts of egg salad, add lettuce if desired, and sandwich together. Rye bread is really good with egg salad. Wheat bread is really good with egg salad. I expect sourdough bread would be really good with egg salad. The toasting is critical since you really want a texture difference between the soft salad and crispy grain. There is also the crucial yet generally ignored element of smell. Rye bread is the most aromatic when toasted, and thus the best for this purpose.

Cut some apricots into halves, tear out their pits, and eat them. Take the wine out of the freezer and drink it. Hey, it's only 11:40 and we have the rest of the day for lazing! Gracious.

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