Friday, March 27, 2009

Egg Salad Sandwiches, Assorted Pickles, Chips

We had a pretty simple dinner last night, but sometimes egg salad is just the thing. And garnishing with a variety of interesting pickles and some good chips makes it even more fun. Plus, this gives me an opportunity to talk about my quest for the perfect technique to hard-boil an egg.

Egg Salad Sandwiches
Assorted Pickles

Egg Salad
10 eggs
1/2 c. mayonnaise (I only use Hellman's or make my own)
2 T or more yellow mustard (I use Plochman's or French's)
1 T or more sugar
(serves 4)

Ahhh, the hard-boiled egg. Ideally, its white is firm, yolk creamy and cooked all the way through but not green at the edges, and is quick and easy to peel. For years I had inconsistent results. About 4 years ago, I began a quest for the perfect technique to hard-boil an egg. I consulted some of my favorite cookbooks, including The Joy of Cooking (if I could only keep one cookbook, it would be this one), Jeremiah Towers' New American Classics, which contains a lot of technical advice, and the voluminous Larousse Gastronomique, a kind of single-volume encyclopedia of food and cooking. I also conducted an extensive Internet search. The most common approach involved placing the eggs in cold water, bringing them to a boil, turning the heat down to low and covering for 10 minutes to gently cook, then draining and bathing in cold water. This approach yields a perfectly cooked yolk, but the whites are a bit soft, and they can be a bear to peel. I learned during this search that fresh eggs are the hardest to peel, and eggs that are older - 2 weeks or more - are easier...the reason for this seems to be something of a mystery, though I've found it to be true. The trouble is, sometimes you can't wait 2 weeks: you gotta buy those eggs and boil 'em today!

As you have probably guessed, I did solve this mystery on my own, after a bit of experimentation. Here's my method: place cold eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with warm (not cold) water with at least an inch of water over the tops of the eggs. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and simmer (uncovered) for 11 minutes. Turn the heat back to high, bring to a vigorous boil, and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain, put the pan in the sink and fill with cold water. I usually swirl them around for a bit, then drain and replace with more cold water to really draw the heat out. After adding cold water the second time, take the eggs out one-by-one, gently crack the shells all over, and put them back in the water to continue cooling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then peel.

I've found this method to give me very consistent results. The virogous boiling at the end firms up the whites, giving them a nice firm texture and making the shells easier to peel, but leaving the yolks yellow and creamy-textured. Cracking the shells while soaking helps loosen them a bit, further facilitating peeling. I have a gas range. If you have electric burners, you may have to experiment with the timing. I would go so far as to pre-heat one burner on high, and another on low, and move the pan back and forth to get instantaneous change in heat level.

Now, to make the egg salad. Make the sauce in a small bowl. Mix the mayo, mustard and sugar. Dissolve the sugar completely. Taste. The acid in the vinegar and the sugar should be balanced. Trust your taste, and adjust as needed. Chop up the eggs and place in a medium-sized bowl. You can gauge the size of the dice to your tastes...I like it a little chunky. Add about 2/3rds of the sauce and mix. If it's too dry, add more until the consistency is right. That's it!

If you want an extra-creamy and rich texture, remove the yolks from the whites and mash with a fork. Dice the whites and add to the yolks, then mix with the sauce as above.

Choose your favorite sandwich bread. Lately, I've been grooving on Pepperidge Farm's Dark German Wheat Bread. Sandwich buns, or toasted Vienna bread are also favorites at our house.

Assorted Pickles
I love good pickles. With this meal, I served pickled beets, midget dills, and pepperocini. Don't skimp here - it adds a lot to the meal.

For fun, make your own fresh beet pickles. Trim and wash fresh beets, and cook at a low boil for about 40 minutes until tender. Drain and cover in cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins, and cut into slices or wedges. Sprinkle with good quality red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and a couple pinches of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, and serve.

We used classic Lays last night. I also love salt & vinegar chips, or gourmet chips of whatever variety jumps out at you.

This meal cries out for lemonade or ginger ale. Enjoy!

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