Lunch has been an obstacle lately. We’re trying so hard to brown bag it, but it’s winter time, so we’re eating a lot of soup and stews, and they’re just not the same microwaved, in a cubicle, without a fire going and dogs sleeping at ones feet.
Sandwiches … just not doing it for us. Especially after we discovered the bánh mì, which has raised the bar so ridiculously high as to what a sandwich can be.
And then M. threw out egg salad as an idea the other day. Since we’re trying to watch our food budget a bit more closely, egg salad sounded like a winner. A dozen eggs are still right around a buck in these parts, so at a dime an egg, egg salad makes for a nice option.
But I’ve never quite gotten the recipe down right. It always seems like it takes way too much mayo to make the powder dry yolks edible between two slices of bread, resulting in a cholesterol bomb of a meal.
Then I discovered the secret to egg salad: the simple process of correctly boiling the eggs. I had always used the dumb guy approach to boiling eggs: bring the eggs to a boil, take them off the heat, then forget about them for half an hour or so. The eggs are for sure cooked the whole way through when you do it that way, but you get those Sahara-esque yolks with the gray outer layer that fall apart like Lot’s wife when you look at them wrong. But like most things in life, the difference between the lazy dumb guy’s approach and the correct approach is just one or two degrees of execution that gets you a completely different result.
And it turns out that if you boil the eggs correctly, it really doesn’t matter what else goes in the salad. Celery is fine, salt and pepper, maybe paprika, maybe not, maybe mustard or dry mustard, maybe onion or onion powder, maybe cilantro or parsley, maybe a whole lot of things. But when you boil the eggs the right way, the egg whites and yolks come out so creamy and delicious that it doesn’t matter what else goes into it.
Put your eggs in a sauce pan and cover with cold water, at least an inch of water above the height of the eggs. Now bring the water to a boil over high heat. You can cover first, but if you don’t have a glass lid, make sure you’re checking the water, because the second it starts to boil, you need do three things.
1. Turn off the heat
2. Cover the pan
3. Start your timer. I’ve found that 8 minutes is the magic number, but we’re at altitude here, and 7 should work for you flat-landers.
While the timer’s ticking down, get a bowl large enough for all of your eggs, fill it with cold water, and add a handful or two of ice cubes. Then, as quickly as you can once the timer goes off, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to stop the cooking. They can sit there for 3-4 minutes while you’re getting out your cutting board and mixing bowl and whatever else you want to put in there.
Stopping the cooking via the ice bath creates the creamy smooth yolks that are worlds apart from mass produced grocery store deli counter egg salad. And because the eggs are so creamy, you can get by with a little bit less than a tablespoon of mayonnaise for every four eggs. And the only difference between the correct method and the dumb lazy guy method is one more step (the ice bath) and a little bit of attention to detail. So, there you go, yet another reason not to be a dumb lazy guy.