16 June 2013
Perfect picnic egg salad
We're always talking about food at our house. What's your favorite sandwich? What are your top 5 beers? If you could open a diner, what would it be called, and what would the menu look like? And, of course, what is your perfect picnic menu?
Perfect picnic fare has a few qualifications. It tastes great cold. It's classic and uncomplicated. It's easy to transport. It can ideally be eaten with your hands, although we make limited exceptions for salads. And it's appropriate to the height of picnic season.
With all that in mind, we think the ideal picnic sandwich crown belongs to egg salad. It's tangy yet creamy, full of finely chopped crispy vegetables and big chunks of rich egg, seasoned liberally with fresh herbs, and stuffed between slices of toasted rye or sourdough: yes.
A good egg salad requires good hard-boiled eggs, so let's start there.
There are lots of different ways to boil eggs. The most common method involves boiling eggs for ten full minutes. This usually results in a hard-boiled egg with a rubbery yolk and a ring of greenish oxidation around the yolk: not good. To make a perfect hard-boiled egg, you need to cook your eggs for less than ten minutes. Eight minutes will produce an egg that looks like this one: solid, creamy-textured white with a yolk that's fully cooked on the outside, but still a bit damp in the middle. In an egg salad, the white will be more tender and delicious, while the yolk will mix more smoothly with the classic mayo & mustard dressing. It's an ideal situation.
Perfect hard-boiled eggs
Put your eggs, cold from the refrigerator, in a pot. Cover with cold water. Put the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and start timing.
Take your pot off the heat at the eight minute mark for large eggs. If you're using extra large, you can push it to nine minutes. Immediately drain off the hot water and run your eggs under the cold tap. I like to cool down the whole pan under the faucet, turning to get all the metal in contact with the cold water. Then, either in your cooled pot or a separate bowl, cover your eggs in cold water and add a handful of ice cubes.
Let your eggs chill until they're cool enough to peel. Then whack them all over with the back of a spoon and peel them, starting with the wider end. I like to peel eggs under a thin stream of cold water; this way, the water gets behind the membrane and helps loosen it a bit.
Voila: a perfect hard-boiled egg.
Combine this with a few radishes and some chopped fresh dill, and you have the makings of one of the best salads ever.
Dill and radishes are seriously the power combination for egg salad. Maybe you've always eaten your egg salad with celery as the crunchy veg component. That's all well and good--and you can absolutely add minced celery as well--but radishes, in my opinion, are even better. They're crunchy and spicy and add a beautiful touch of dark pink to the salad.
And dill! Dill is one of the most underused herbs ever, and it goes so perfectly with egg and mustard. It is, of course, totally fine to use parsley if that's what floats your boat, but you should absolutely try dill. It's the best cool counterpoint to spicy radish and rich egg.
Perfect picnic egg salad for two
4 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 bunch fresh dill/other herbs of your choice
1-2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
rye or sourdough bread
Chop your eggs into pleasing chunks. Finely mince your radishes. Strip the dill fronds from their stems and chop them up. Trim a couple scallions and slice them into thin rounds.
Combine all your eggs and vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix, smashing with a fork to blend the egg yolks with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread your egg salad onto slices of toasted rye or sourdough bread. Other bread is also okay, of course, but the flavor and aroma of both rye and sourdough are hard to beat. It's also pretty delicious to spread your egg salad on cucumber slices if you want more vegetables, or for a big plate of appetizers. It's all good.
Now eat it! We had our egg salad sandwiches open-faced, with a side of cucumber shallot salad. Super delicious and refreshing on a summer afternoon.
We actually ended up eating everything at home, I'm sorry to say. It was just too blindingly sunny outside, and we are cloud-loving midwesterners, even after eight years of living in California. Fortunately, picnic food tastes just as good inside as out.
Next up: that cucumber shallot salad! Hooray!