Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Idea of Egg Salad.

I don’t know by what means the idea of egg salad popped into my head as a subject for a blog post. I am not sure what ‘Egg Salad’ is, exactly, and I am pretty sure I have never followed any recipe for it’, although I suspect I have in fact made and eaten it at some stage in my life.
The idea of ‘Egg Salad’ brings up all sorts of questions about the nature of salads in general, and the quantity and exact role of the egg component required for a dish to qualify as specifically ‘Egg Salad’. If I have thought about egg salad at all, the eggs have always been hard-boiled. Are greens a necessary ingredient? And salads are cold dishes, are they not? Until I looked into it, I had no idea just how varied the simple dish can be.
So far, the earliest recipe I have found for Egg Salad is from one of my favourite cookery books - Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, by a lady; 1827. The recipe was repeated in cookery books, more or less word-for-word, for at least four decades. There are no greens or other ‘salad’ ingredient, but only hard boiled eggs, with dressing.

Egg Salad.
Boil six cloves of garlic six minutes, and pound them with a few capers and two anchovies; mix them very well with oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar, and dish it under hard-boiled eggs, whole or cut in two.

The following recipe gives a whole different spin on the concept. This is a pretty dish indeed, and with its lovely red and green sprinkles would make a lovely Christmas salad. The eggs are certainly hard-boiled – as a first step.

Egg salad consists of an ordinary salad made with French lettuces, with an extra quantity of hard-boiled eggs. If you want to make the salad look very pretty on the top, cut up the lettuces and dress them with oil and vinegar in the ordinary way. Make the tops of the lettuces (which should be placed in a round salad-bowl) as smooth as you can without pressing them down unnecessarily. Now take six hard-boiled eggs, separate the yolks from the whites, powder the yolks, and chop up the whites small. Sprinkle a ring of yellow round the edge of the salad-bowl, say an inch in width, then put a ring of white round, and place the remainder of yolk in the middle, almost up to the centre. Have the centre about two inches in diameter. We now have a yellow centre surrounded by a broad white rim (as, of course, there is more white than yellow), and an outside yellow ring, which meets the white china bowl. Reserve about a teaspoonful of pieces of finely chopped white, and put them in a saucer, with a few drops of cochineal, and shake them. This turns them a bright red. Sprinkle these red specks very sparingly on the white, and take about half a teaspoonful of chopped blanched parsley, and sprinkle these green specks on the yellow. This makes the dish look pretty.
Cassell’s Vegetarian Cookery, 1891.

Did I say ‘salad’ was a cold dish? How about this idea:

Hot Egg Salad.
Miss Juliet Corson.
A tablespoon of salad oil made hot. Break three eggs into it, and stir a little. Season with salt and pepper. Turn out as soon as it hardens a trifle, sprinkle over the top a tablespoon chopped cucumber, same of grated lemon rind, a tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons salad oil.
From: Mrs Owens’ Cook Book, by Frances Owens, 1903

Stuffed eggs work too, again, without greens:

Egg Salad.
Remove the shell from six cold, hard-boiled eggs, cut in halves lengthwise; take out the yolks; mash fine, season them with an eighth of a teaspoon of mustard, quarter of a teaspoon salt, and a dash of red pepper; add just enough cream to make a smooth paste (about two tablespoons of cream are generally enough); put back into the halves of the eggs, and arrange on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves. Make a boiled dressing of eight tablespoons of vinegar, four of hot water, quarter of a teaspoon of mustard, half a teaspoon each of salt and flour, and one egg. Boil until thick; then pour over the eggs and serve at once.
The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), June 30, 1900

Finally, it seems that the eggs do not need to be hard-boiled, but may be scrambled – after being reconstituted:

Scrambled Egg Salad.
1 oz margarine; 3 dried eggs, reconstituted; 4 tablespoons milk; salt and pepper; 3 or 4 spring onions or 1 leek; ½ lb cabbage heart; 1 lb cooked potatoes, sliced; ¼ lb cooked green peas; 2 or 3 cooked carrots, sliced; chopped mint; salad dressing.
Melt the margarine in a pan. Mix the eggs, milk, half the onion, and seasoning, and pour into the pan. Cooke gently until just set; leave to cool. Shred the cabbage finely and mix in the rest of the chopped onion. Place in the bottom of salad bowl. Pile the eggs in the centre and arrange the potato, carrots and peas around it. Sprinkle with chopped mint and serve with salad dressing.
British Ministry of Food, Food Facts leaflet of July 1944

Quotation for the Day.

Eggs have two advantages over all other foods. First, they are procurable nearly everywhere; second, the most dainty person is sure when eating eggs that they have not been handled.

A Book for A Cook, The Pillsbury Co. (1905)


kitchen hand said...

I poach eggs for my caesar salad, perch it on top and dip the croutons. The spillage dresses the other ingredients progressively. Delicious.

Anonymous said...

Big fan of the cold egg.
I've become rather addicted to the - wait for it - Ikea "egg salad".
Really an open sandwich, but features slices of cold egg, prawns, fish roe, and some type of seafood sauce. All arranged artfully on a chewy Ikea flatbread.

I could down one now actually. Pity Ikea's 2 hours away..

Kathryn McGowan said...

One of my favorite salads is a hot egg salad of sorts: Salade Lyonaise: frisee, bacon, croutons and a poached egg on top.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks everyone - I never tire of eggs, and you have given me some good ideas!

Anonymous said...

I make deviled egg salad... that is, I cut up the hard boiled eggs, add in a bit of horseradish, some mustard and just enough mayonnaise to stick it all together. Then I make a bacon and egg salad sandwich on toasted homemade bread with lettuce and tomato! Thanks for the interesting post :)

Kate said...

I like making a hot cheese sauce with a bit of mustard and cayenne in it, place sliced hard-boiled eggs over sturdy greens (like arugula or mizuna)and then pour the hot cheese sauce on top. Yum!

The Old Foodie said...

Kate: this sounds fabulous; anything with hot cheese sauce is fabulous! with a piece of toast under it I guess it is a variation of Welsh Rabbit (I hereby name it "Kate Rabbit" and will add it to my collection of WR recipes right now!

Kate said...

I like that! "Kate Rarebit" very first dish named after me. Such fun. Love your blog. Very happy that I found it!



The InTolerant Chef ™ said...

I love having a gooey poached egg yolk dress my salad greens. Better than any mayonaise. Yumm...

Shay said...

Except that, before the development of electric light and battery-raised eggs, hens didn't lay in the winter. You had to "put up" eggs in waterglass to have any over the dark months.