Sunday, May 2, 2021

Saladosity, Part 18: Egg Salad

[This is the eighteenth post in a long series.  You may wish to start at the beginning.  Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

(If you need a refresher about my salad-making lingo, go back and review our first salad.)

Well, after six years, I’ve finally gotten to the last salad from my original plan for this series.  Who knew it would take so long?  Well, I suppose pretty much anyone could have predicted it, given my track record.  But, still, it’s nice to finally arrive at the end ... of what I’d originally conceived.  Of course, in six years, one can come up with even more things to blather on about on a given topic, and salad-making—one of the best things to come out of my search to transform my diet into a more healthy one—is a font of boundless ideas.  So perhaps this won’t be the end after all.  But we’ve arrived at an end, so let’s see what awaits us here.

Egg salad.

Now, I hear what you’re saying: egg salad doesn’t count as proper salad!  It’s a sandwich spread, for fuck’s sake!  But there’s where I think you’re wrong.  I always liked egg salad as a kid, and I’ve occasionally tried to buy an egg salad sandwich at various restaurants.  They used to make a pretty decent one in the sandwich joint in our office complex at my last job.  Unfortuantely, they charged $6 for it.  So I didn’t get it very often, and, every time I did, I would shake my head at my own foolishness: I could have made a week’s worth of egg salad sandwiches for myself and still have had a few bucks left over.  And it would have been just as good ... maybe even better.  ‘Cause egg salad is easy to make, and delicious to boot.

But what does it have to with salad, you ask?  Because, despite having the word “salad” right there in the name, egg salad isn’t salad.  I don’t think there’s much debate about that.  But, once I gave up bread (temporarily1), I started looking for other ways to enjoy things I used to use bread for.  Lettuce-wrapped burgers are just dandy, I found, while hot dogs are great if you use the mustard and relish as a dip.  I invented2 “cheesewiches,” which is turkey or ham or whatnot in between two slices of cheese—bread isn’t really needed to enjoy luncheon meat; it’s just there to have something to hold on to to keep you from getting mayo on your fingers.  And, when it comes to egg salad, you can just eat it straight up, no bread required.

Or ...

Or you can actually use it as a salad dressing.  It may sound like a wacky concept at first, but give it a try: I think you’ll find that you like it as much as I do.  All it really does is give your egg salad a little crunch, and, honestly, a lot of egg salad needs crunch.  And, if you think about it, none of the individual ingredients of egg salad are that weird in the context of a salad: we used eggs in our chef’s salad, we used mayo and mustard in our autumnal salad, and salt and pepper is perfectly reasonable on salads.  And that only leaves us with ...

Pickle Relish

Okay, at first you may be thinking: who puts pickle relish in salad?  But, actually, we already did that.  We made Thousand Island dressing for our chef’s salad, and you can’t make Thousand Island dressing without pickle relish.  So, I’ve talked about pickle relish before: both for chef’s salad, and also when discussing buying pickles while shopping for dry goods.  But here’s a refresher:

  • Sweet relish is too sweet.  If that’s your thing, feel free to use it, of course.  But we’re not dressing a hot dog here: we’re dressing a salad.  And you don’t need the added sugar.
  • Dill pickles have zero calories, zero fat, and zero carbs.  Whether you subscribe to Whole30, Atkins, or Weight Watchers, dill pickles are an entirely free food.
  • Dill pickle relish is hard to find, but almost trivial to make.

I actually explained how to make your own pickle relish for the Thousand Island dressing, but I glossed over it quickly because there was a lot more going on there.  I’ll slow it down this time:

  • Take your jar of dill pickles that you bought at the store.  Pour out maybe half the juice.  (A little less than half is probably better than a little more in this case.)
  • Just dump all the rest of it into your food processor or blender.
  • Pulse it until it looks like relish.
  • That’s mostly all there is to it, but you may need to stop and stir it all up a few times just to keep the bigger pickle chunks from hiding out in the corners and never getting diced.  And, honestly, you’ll probably still end up with a couple of bigger hunks.  But that’s fine.

And, voilà: pickle relish.  Couldn’t be simpler, really.

Egg Salad “Dressing”

Now we’ll make egg salad.  You don’t have to use this only for salads, of course.  You could put it on bread, if you’re still doing bread occasionally.  Or just eat it straight out of the container: it’s very good.  But give it a try on some veggies.  You’ll be surprised at how well that works.

Here’s all you need:

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs (we boiled a bunch for chef’s salad, remember?)
  • 2 big spoons of our homemade mayonnaise
  • 2 full squirts mustard (I like yellow for this, but you do you)
  • 4 little spoons of the pickle relish we made up above
  • 2 heavy pinches of salt
  • about 10 grinds of black pepper

I like to prepare the eggs the same way I would for making deviled eggs.  Just cut each one in half and pop the yolks out into your bowl.  Take the whites and cut them into big chunks: perhaps four slices the long way and four the short way.  Set the chunks aside.

You might want to use a fork to mash up the yolks a bit, but basically it’s just mixing at that point.  Put the whites in last after everything else is mixed together so they retain their shape a bit.  Tweak the pepper to your taste, but I like a lot of pepper in my eggs.  Remember, a “big spoon” is a tablespon and a “little spoon” is a teaspoon, but I’m talking about the ones you eat out of, not necessarily the exact measurements ... I very rarely measure things when making salad stuff.  Again, we’re talking quick and easy here.  Use the big spoon from the mayo to do the mixing: that saves a dish to clean up afterwards.3  You’ll probably want to use a slotted spoon for the relish to avoid getting too much juice into your egg salad; otherwise you get runny egg salad, which isn’t good for anyone.

Egg salad

As always, you’re ready, and it’s just assembly.  At its simplest, you could just take your base veggies and toss some egg salad on ’em.  (In my dressing parlance, I would advise “heavy”: this is less salad veggies with egg salad dressing and more egg salad with some salad veggies in it.)  But I’ll offer you some helpful tips:

  • As always, use whatever type of veggies you like.  However, personally this is one of the very few types of salad where I usually forgo the cucumbers.  You can leave ’em in, of course—they’ll taste perfectly okay—but they’re not adding any crunch, and I don’t find the flavors mesh that well.
  • On the other hand, the scallions (or onions, in a pinch) and peppers are great.  You might think it sounds weird at first, but go with it.  The lettuce, of course, is no different than having lettuce on your egg salad sandwich: it’s perfectly lovely.
  • The celery is the truly amazing part though.  In fact, what I usually do is add the finely chopped celery directly into the egg salad.  Even when I’m eating the egg salad in other contexts, that celery really kicks it up a notch.
  • For a truly fancy egg salad, see if you can find some watercress.  I personally can’t ever find any, but I had bought some egg salad once from a grocery store, at the butcher counter where you can buy meats or potato salad and stuff like that by the pound, and they were selling egg salad that they made fresh right there, and it had watercress in it, and it was awesome.  One day I’m going to find some watercress at some grocery store I go to and I’m going to buy a whole bunch of it and take it home and make massive batches of egg salad with it.  If you’re gonna dream, dream big, I always say.

And that’s all there is to it.  Salad with egg salad (egg salad salad?) is surprisingly good, surprisingly healthy (if you made the mayo and the pickle relish as I suggsted, there’s zero sugar and very few carbs4), and, if you enjoyed egg salad as a kid like I did, kind of nostalgic.  But also with a crunchier, more sophisticated taste that lets you know you’re not just easting kid stuff.  It’s a win-win.

Next time, we’ll look back over what’s changed with my salad-making procedures over the past six years.  And maybe even toss in a bonus salad or two.


1 This was part of doing my take on Whole30, you may recall.

2 Probably not.

3 And you can even use it to eat your salad with afterwards.  I eat most of my salads with a spoon because I hate chasing bits of veggie around a bowl, but this one in particular is more of a spoon-type affair.

4 Technically, egg yolks have some carbs.  Just not very many.

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