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Spring Egg Salad

simple egg salad

What’s something you’ve never told anyone before? Not because it’s weird or embarrassing or incriminating, but because it’s just not something you’ve ever thought to say out loud? I’ll go first.

Every time I’m at the airport, I crave egg salad. I walk around from café to café, restaurant to restaurant, sometimes even taking a lap around Hudson News in pursuit of the stuff. It’s a exercise in futility – I’ve never once found egg salad at the airport. And if I’m being honest with myself, I probably never will. What’s the point! I try not to be indignant about it, but it’s hard to believe I’m the only one wondering why no airports in the greater United States carry egg salad. I know, my struggle is so real.

The other morning, I found myself at the airport. I say “found” because this flight was at such an ungodly hour of the morning that I had hardly regained consciousness by the time I got past security. I was in Austin, closing out a week of eating barbecue and doing bridesmaid things for my aunt’s wedding. It had been a week of reckless food consumption and generous pours of wine and whiskey. It was 6AM at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and I had a hankering for egg salad. The standard procedure commenced, ending rather decidedly without the ambrosia I was after.

As I sat, hunched over an overpriced breakfast sandwich, I resolved to take matters into my own hands. Why live your life waiting for egg salad to magically show up at the airport when you can show up at the airport with your own egg salad?? Lean in, am I right!?

I spent the next few minutes researching the subject at hand, looking to my favorite food blogs for sage advice. After a quick 4-hour nap at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, I was back in SF, headed straight to Whole Foods with a game plan.

spring egg saladdill egg saladegg salad recipe

A note about egg salad: It has come to my attention, after sharing this deeply personal truth with a few friends, that egg salad is not, in fact, a ubiquitously loved food item. In fact, most of those surveyed were both surprised and appalled to learn about my obsession. So, if you’re a disbeliever too, please understand this before passing judgment: This egg salad isn’t the overly mayo’d, mushy, or smelly food of your childhood memories featuring gross cafeterias or family reunion picnics.

heidi swanson egg salad

This has texture, lots of flavor, and is the perfect snack morning, noon, or night. It’s healthy, seasonally flexible, and even easy to take to the airport, if you’re so inclined. I recommend using super fresh eggs for the brightest color, and be careful not to over-cook them so your yolks don’t turn gray and crumbly. We’re going for creamy yolks and springy whites, people! For the mayo, I always prefer Kewpie, the extra rich tasting Japanese mayo with the weird baby on the bottle. You can find it at any Japanese super market! Most recipes call for celery, but we used fresh snap peas from our garden, which was both gratifying and delicious! Get creative – you can swap in other fresh herbs and crunchy things. Tarragon, thyme, fennel, scallions, and English peas all sound good to me.

Okay, now it’s your turn.

pantry raid egg saladsienna mintz

Ingredients (about 6 servings)

  • 12 very fresh eggs
  • 1-2 tablespoons Kewpie mayo
  • 1 sprig of fresh dill, de-stemmed
  • 3-5 cornichons, sliced
  • 5 snap peas, chopped
  • ½ bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • Paprika
  • Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of ice water to stop them from over-cooking. Peel them!
  2. Place the peeled eggs in a large mixing bowl. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, smash the eggs until they’re just broken up into uniform small-ish pieces.
  3. Add the mayo and stir to combine. For a creamier texture try adding more mayo and/or smashing the eggs a bit more.
  4. Stir in dill, cornichons, snap peas, chives, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and add more of one thing or another until it’s just right.
  5. Serve on crusty bread, in a sandwich with lettuce, cucumber, avocado, and sprouts, or enjoy straight up!

Mastering the Art of Grandma’s Cooking

mastering the art of french cooking

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – JC

Everything I know and love about cooking, I learned from my grandma. I’m not talking knife technique or how to make a brisket. She taught me the fundamentals, like making a mess, licking the spoon, using all the butter, and not losing your shit when the sauce doesn’t come out quite right. She didn’t mean to make me fall in love with cooking, but then again Julia didn’t mean to either.

A couple months ago, I was visiting Los Angeles and my grandma pulled out a dusty copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was her 1964 copy, with a weathered spine and pages brown the way only loved books can be. Bookmarked were some of her favorite recipes, the red-edged pages of which were scribbled with her notes in curly, barely legible cursive. She said I could keep it – she’s been making these recipes since the 60s and hardly needed a guide anymore – so I did.

julia childs cookbook

“Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again.” – JC

I read the book cover to cover, feeling a strange sense of familiarity with the recipes, the asides, and Julia’s overall approach to cooking and entertaining. Considering I knew shamefully little (bordering nothing) about Julia Child, this simpatico seemed odd. But then I realized that I had known Julia as long as I’ve been cooking with my grandma. My grandma’s playful, creative, make-it-work approach to cooking is a ricochet of learning to cook the Julia way. While I can’t say I’m nearly as graceful or intuitive as either of them are, the book – scribbled notes, splattered pages and all – pointed out that the cook I want to be is the one I grew up watching.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – JC

“You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” – JC

When I started talking to people about Julia, everyone was shocked and appalled that I hadn’t ever seen Julie and Julia – the Amy Adams/Meryl Streep film that tells the side-by-side stories of a quirky panicked blogger and an American living in Paris learning to cook. I watched it while pathetically nibbling on overcooked gnocchi during tooth-pocalypse 2016 and haven’t stopped doing the Julia Child voice since.

Conveniently enough, my turn to prepare team dinner was around the corner. I consulted the cookbook, recruited a squad of fellow Chewse chefs, and planned a menu that required more butter and fat than I’ve consumed in the past year. The ingredients were few – French cooking isn’t much more than carrots, onions, mushrooms, beef, wine, herbs, and butter – but the quantities were large.

pearl onionsfresh pearl onionsbraising beefmushroom bourguignon

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – JC

My first attempt at these long winded recipes was for a group of 25. What’s more, we had a few vegans in the building, which is probably the dirtiest word in the dictionary according to Julia. As I ordered the margarine on Instacart, I could practically feel Julia turning in her grave. Alas, we altered a few recipes to keep our vegans far from animal products but still damn close to the indulgence we all enjoyed.

smitten kitchen mushroom bourguignon

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” – JC

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” – JC

chewse syssitia

The recipes I chose are a mix of my grandma’s favorites and French classics. We cooked nearly all day, first getting the mise en place assembled, then browning the meat and caramelizing onions, and finally assembling everything at the last minute. We had French Onion Soup with Gruyere toast, Niçoise salad, scallion mashed potatoes, Boeuf Bourguignon, and mushroom bourguignon.

Boeuf Bourguignon is a hearty, wine saturated braise, so while drinking at work is generally frowned upon, Julia’s orders to always cook with a glass of the wine you’re using took precedence over the rules.

i love to cook with wine

“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food…” – JC

The night before, I was telling my grandma about my master plan to bring her old cookbook to life. Her only concern was that I wouldn’t have time to work all day (she was right) with my ambitious menu and instructed me to save time by caramelizing the onions with the boeuf in the oven, where they would “simmer and make love to each other all day.”

The meal came together perfectly – plates were full and then empty, full and then empty. The soup was sweet and comforting, infused with the flavors of day-long caramelized onions, cooked in white wine. The salad was fresh, herby, and simple – great balance for the Boeuf Bourguignon. Speaking of which, the boeuf was fall apart tender and the sauce, brilliantly silky and rich – perfect for a side of creamy mashed potatoes.

Salade niçoisenicoise dressinghard boiled eggs

“Everything in moderation…including moderation.” – JC

I introduced the meal in my best Julia voice and passed out hearts for everyone to wear a la the film’s portrayal of Julia and Paul’s Valentines Day party. Lucky for me, my company loves to eat. There were firsts, then seconds, more wine, and plenty more after that.

The meal we ate tasted like something unique to that evening – the amalgamation of hard work (damn you, pearl onions) and local ingredients – but it also tasted nostalgic. These recipes belong to my childhood – the flavors and smells bring me back to my grandmother’s house, to dinner parties where she cooked and I baked Hershey’s chocolate cake, to each special moment we’ve shared where she, without really meaning to, has helped me master the art of French cooking.

julia child valentines day

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – JC

Recipes as they appear in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, with a few adjustments from Grandma, and a few more from me:

Soupe À L’Oignon (serves 6-8)

  • 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 quarts beef or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.
  2. Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
  4. Off heat, blend in the liquid. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.

Salad Niçoise (serves 6-8)

  • 1 cup vinaigrette with herbs (combine the following ingredients)
    • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
    • Salt
    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • Tarragon, chopped
    • Chives, chopped
  • 3 cups French potato salad (combine the following ingredients)
    • 3 cups Yukon gold potatoes, boiled and quartered
    • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted Niçoise olives, halved
  • 2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, cold, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 head Boston/butter lettuce, separated, washed, drained, and dried
  • 3 cups cold, blanched, green beans, halved
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  1. Put it all in a bowl and toss it!

Boeuf Bourguignon (serves 6)

  • 3 pounds chuck roast beef, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied red wine
  • 2 to 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 18 to 24 pearl onions, braised in beef broth
  • 1 pound quartered crimini mushrooms, sautéed in butter
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in hot oil in a cast iron dutch oven, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove from dutch oven.
  3. Brown the vegetables in the dutch oven with the leftover oil.
  4. Return the beef to the dutch oven and toss with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set dutch oven uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 more minutes. Remove the dutch oven and turn heat down to 325 degrees.
  5. Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to simmer on top of stove. Then cover the dutch oven and set in lower third of preheated oven. Simmer in the oven for 3-4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pieces it easily.
  6. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set aside until needed.
  7. When the meat is tender, mix in the onions and mushrooms and serve!

Mushroom Bourguignon (directly from smitten kitchen)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 pounds crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled
  1. Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a heavy sauce pan over high heat.
  2. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
  3. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the wine, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste and broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender.
  6. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
  7. Stir the flour into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Crispy Cauliflower Couscous

crispy cauliflower couscous

As you may have read, I recently discovered cauliflower. This awakening has been akin to a religious or sexual one – I just can’t get enough. I want cauliflower all the time. I want to try new things with it, brag about it to my friends, and generally obsess over just how great it really is. I’ve seen the light, and there’s no going back.

(Don’t worry Brussels sprouts, you’ll always be my first veggie love – see below)

Much like when I thought Brussels sprouts couldn’t get any better – and then added bacon, I was sure I had mastered cauliflower with my rendition of Delfina’s crowd- pleasing side dish.

Enter the food processor. Chop away at some raw cauliflower florets and they magically turn into little couscous-like pieces. With a bit of oil and a lot of heat, this crumbly goodness becomes delicious “fried rice” in a heartbeat.

cauliflower rice

Since cauliflower is relatively mild in flavor, your brain might actually believe you’re feeding it carbs, when, in fact, you’re really giving it a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients. Gottcha!

italian fried rice

You can use cauliflower couscous as a base for just about any dish (eggy fried rice is next on my list), but this kitchen experiment landed in the Italian category. Guess I’ve still got Delfina on the brain…

fried cauliflower rice

The cauliflower retains its general tenderness, while some bits get nice and crispy. The peppers and garlic heat things up, so season with caution. The spice level is cut by the sour capers, which crisp up a little if you add them to the pan early enough.

capers cauliflower rice

This dish would make a great side to grilled fish, beneath a scoop of ratatouille, or alongside chicken piccata. Or, if you’re me, you’ll eat it out of a bowl with some crispy cast iron skillet-ed Brussels sprouts. Some things never change…

carb free rice

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Cut cauliflower into small florets.
  2. In small batches, pulse cauliflower in a food processor until texture is consistent and rice-like.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is piping hot, add cauliflower. Stir often.
  4. Once cauliflower begins to brown, add minced garlic, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, capers, salt, and pepper.

 

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