When I was a kid, my mom never really made egg salad. Not sure why. I mean I loved hard boiled eggs, in particular, the egg whites. Usually, whatever sandwiches we had were lunch meat - bologna, ham, turkey or, my favorite, hard salami. It wasn't until I was in fifth or sixth grade when I had my first egg salad sandwich.
After school I could usually be found at my best friend Steve's house. Since both his parents worked, either Steve's grandmother Irene or great aunt Inez would, I hesitate to use the word "babysit," rather they would sort of hang out and make sure we weren't doing anything we oughtn't be doing. Irene and Inez were sisters and both had been high school teachers for years and years and years, drama and English respectively. Flamboyantly Southern, Irene was short and squat and always seemed to be on a diet, whereas her sister was tall and slender and had the regal air of a Julia Child meets Katherine Hepburn. Not that Inez could cook exactly. But it was she who made me my first egg salad sandwich. Even though I hated mayonnaise, mustard and egg yolks, somehow I loved the creamy, eggy mixture and the way it oozed out from between the slices of Wonder Bread as I took bite after bite. I may have excitedly told my mom about when I got home and I'm sure she thought to herself "Why's this kid so excited about an egg salad sandwich." Years later when I was in college, egg salad was one of the first things I made in my apartment, where I could no longer rely on the dining hall for my nourishment. I thought I was especially clever by adding a few shakes of some dried dill that I found in a cupboard.
This recipe is sort of inspired by one in the Gourmet Cookbook. I liked how they sort of took the simple and made it a little more upscale with the addition of tarragon and shallots. I thought it might be nice to take it a step further by using a combination of fresh herbs, in this case, tarragon, parsley, chives, and chervil, all of which I just happened to have on hand from when I made the salad to go along with Thomas Keller's Rainbow Trout. This combination of herbs is known as "fines herbs."
If you are anything like me, chervil is an herb that I knew little to nothing about and had never worked with. After a little research, it turns out that chervil is a member of the carrot and parsley family, which sort of makes sense, since the leaves kind of resemble carrot greens. Sometimes it's referred to as "gourmet's parsley." The flavor is mild, sort of lemon meets anise and is similar to tarragon. It works well with fish and poultry. I figured it would work well with eggs as well. Turns out I was right.
3 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced tarragon
1 tablespoon minced chervil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
First we need to hard boil the eggs. Do we all know how to boil eggs perfectly? This method comes from Martha, so who am I to question. It works perfectly for me EVERY time. Place the eggs in a small pot and add enough cold water to cover the eggs by about half an inch. Bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. Once the water boils, turn off the heat, cover the pot and let sit for 12 minutes exactly. Then transfer the pot to the sink and rinse with cold water until the eggs are cool. Then peel.
To make the salad, I like to coarsely chop the eggs, discarding the yolks from 4 of them. It's a little bit healthier and I don't find that it really affects the taste any. Add the minced herbs, vinegar, and mayonnaise. Stir to combine and then season with salt and pepper.
I like to serve the egg salad in the form of a tartine, which is to say, a French style open face sandwich. I spoon mountains of the salad on slices of nice bread, bread with personality (I favor the Rustic Milstone loaf made by the bread artists at Breadbar), that I brush with a little olive oil and then grill in my trusty cast iron grill pan and then slather with some grainy Dijon mustard. I top the egg salad with paper thin slices of cucumber and radish and then shower the whole thing with freshly cracked pepper and more of the Fines Herbs. Although it would be great on regular toasted bread.
I urge you to try this recipe. It has a really nice light flavor which I think comes from not using so many yolks and just enough mayo to bind everything together without making it gloopy. The shallots give it bite while the herbs speckled throughout add a flavorful freshness. Coarsely chopping the eggs really celebrates the soft, tender texture of the hard cooked egg whites. If you serve it on grilled bread the contrast between the salad and the crisp, sort of smoky bread is just really satisfying.