A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to write about eggs, which in retrospect was probably not the best idea. Obviously, no one can write about “eggs.” No one can write about “politics” or “art” either, but still, I sat there and stared at an empty word document, and hoped that something would come.
My first thought was to take a scientific approach. Maybe I could describe the chemistry behind custard, and explain how the appropriate protein configurations (achieved at the correct heat) allow eggs to suspend liquid between their molecules. Then again, it might be more interesting to examine the history of egg cultivation, beginning with the domestication of jungle fowl several thousand years ago. Alternatively, I could formulate a list of egg trivia (did you know that there is a correlation between the color of the shell and the color of the hen’s earlobes? And that chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs, and those with darker earlobes, say red, brown or black, lay brown eggs?). What about different sized eggs, like ostrich and emu and quail eggs? Quail eggs might be fun to learn about. I once read that quail hens always lay eggs with a unique spotted pattern, each one as distinct as a human fingerprint—but what does that have to do with my breakfast?
Eventually, I gave up. For something so plain, so common, and so easy to prepare, eggs proved to be far more complicated than I’d anticipated
Another problem that I faced was that I’m very picky about how I like my eggs, which stems from years of refusing to eat them. Hard-boiled eggs I found especially repulsive. The sulfuric smell and cold, slimy exterior proved too much for me to stomach, and to this day, when I see them floating in a tub of ice water at the local deli, I feel myself cringe, ever so slightly.
It wasn’t until college that I actually got up the nerve to try a hard-boiled egg, and the reason for my coercion was not because I craved a taste of its innate egginess, but rather because it had been encased in a layer of Cumberland sausage, breaded and deep-fried. It was delicious.
Since then, I’ve warmed up to the hard-boiled egg. I’ve eaten a great many more Scotch eggs, I recently tried a small sliver of a deviled egg (which I enjoyed), and about three weeks ago I tasted egg salad for the first time.
I was on my way to work when I decided to pick up a breakfast sandwich. Tempted by a crisp looking baguette, and by several bacon strips that peeked out of either side, I examined the edges of the sandwich and noticed that the smear of egg salad appeared creamy, not slimy as I'd anticipated, and so despite my pessimism, I decided to give it a try. When I tasted it, I found it to be savory and satisfying, and strangely enough, my only criticism was that there was not enough egg.
Later that week, I bought another egg salad sandwich that I’d found in the cooler section of a sandwich shop on 26th street. This one was embellished with tomato and lettuce, with large spoonfuls of yellowish egg salad slathered between two unassuming slices of wheat bread. Excited to continue on my path of discovery, I took my first bite, only to find that it lacked flavor, smelled painfully “eggy,” and needed a lot of salt. I began to wonder if what I’d liked so much about the first egg salad sandwich was the same thing that I’ve always loved about BLTs: the bacon.
Being a big believer in the saying, “If you want something done, do it yourself,” I began to imagine what components I’d enjoy in an egg salad sandwich. Creaminess, that’s for sure. Maybe I’d use a combination of low fat mayo and yogurt for a little tang and a few less calories. Freshness was key, so for that I thought some herbs, like parsley or dill, would be nice. Then I wanted to give it a kick—some shallot, I thought. For an extra salty bite, I took some advice from my mother, who advised that I add green olives with pimentos, like her grandmother used to do. I liked this idea, though I decided to make my salad extra briny by using sliced black Moroccan olives instead.
The result was not your traditional egg salad, but boy, was it good. I spread it between two slices of grainy bread and topped it all with a handful of peppery watercress. As I savored my egg salad sandwich, I wondered if I’d overcomplicated it, or added too many ingredients. No matter, I thought. It’s not like eggs are all that simple anyway.
If you prefer a milder, more classic egg salad, skip the olives.
2 tablespoon briny black olives (or another variety of your choosing), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dill (or parsley if you prefer)
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 of a 6oz container (low, or no fat) Greek yogurt, about 3 tablespoons
1 tablespoon low fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Place the eggs in a medium sized saucepan and cover them with one inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, and immediately remove them from the heat. Cover, and allow the eggs to sit for 10 minutes. Prepare a water bath with cold water and about 3 cups of ice, and set aside. When the eggs are finished, spoon them into the water bath and allow them to rest for 5 minutes, or until very cool.
Peel the eggs and chop them finely, or pulse them gently in a food processor until they're crumbly. Stir in the other ingredients, and season very well with salt and pepper. (If you're using briny black olives from the olive bar like I did, they might be quite salty, so you might not need more than a pinch or two of salt.)