I made it for lunch

I have two pink slabs of salmon in the fridge, and a bowl of baby Brussels sprouts, rinsed and dried, on the counter. Eli will be home soon from the climbing gym. He’ll turn on the shower and undress while the water warms, and I’ll slide the sprouts into the oven that’s been heating since the call that he was – that he will be – on his way home. I’ll wait until the pipes are silent and I hear the scrape of the shower curtain, and then I will heat the oil and lift the salmon into the pan. Unless Eli is very hungry. If he is very hungry, he will probably go right for a handful of dried apricots, which he won’t have realized that I have moved from the table by the sofa, where he left them last night, back to the pantry. He’ll figure it out. He’ll walk from the table by the sofa to the pantry, which is actually a deep closet off of the room that we call his office, which is actually a room off of the kitchen that’s supposed to be a dining room. Eli’s desk is in there, the one he built in a woodshop in Seattle, and my grandmother’s piano, and a wooden buffet, and a red chair. (Our table, the almost-square one that we bought up on the North Shore where we were married, is in the living room, between the windows and the fireplace. “We do our eating in the living,” I never say, but I think it sometimes, and I like the way it sounds, unspoken.) Eli will find his apricots and join me in the kitchen, and skip the shower until after we’ve eaten. He’ll tell me something that will make me laugh, something small that, right now, an hour or so before he says it, I can’t wait to hear.

The salmon is in the fridge, and the sprouts are rinsed and dried. I’ll get the call; I’ll heat the oven. But first, I’ll sit and write – I’ve sat and I’ve written – for a few quiet minutes, about the salmon, and the sprouts, the apricots and the shower, and now, about egg salad, too, the egg salad that I made last month, and then promptly forgot, until I picked up a roll of film on Sunday, a pack of slides, actually, and found this frame, tucked between the Wish Tree at the MoMA and a blurry pan of anchovies:

I saw that egg salad, remembered it, and made it for lunch on Monday. I made it for lunch on Tuesday, and I would have again on Wednesday, and maybe even again today, but enough was probably enough. Egg salad haters everywhere will tell you that there is a lot to hate about egg salad and, if they’re referring to egg salad about which there is, in fact, everything to hate, egg salad haters everywhere will be right. But I don’t care to discuss it. It would only ruin your appetite, and mine, and undermine the egg salad that I do care to discuss, an egg salad about which there is precisely nothing to hate and, more precisely, very much to love.

The sauce is Hellmann’s mayonnaise – it really must be Hellman’s – and a fat dab of Dijon mustard, which for me, means Grey Poupon. It’s a vinegary, briny egg salad. The vinegar’s in with the mustard, the brine, on the skins of the capers that I shake into my palm. I let the liquid drain between my fingers, and tip my hand; the capers drop, and scatter when they hit the chopped egg. Into the bowl: A grind of black pepper. Into the bowl: A tuft of fresh dill. Into the bowl: A pinch of flaked sea salt that, against the twinge of vinegar and brine, is unexpectedly sharp. Next time, I’ll do without.

I guide a stack of water crackers from a plastic sleeve and bury them into the salad at the side of the bowl. I sit at the almost-square table in the living room on Monday, and on Tuesday, in the red chair in the dining room (that room off the kitchen with no table, a desk, and a piano). I rest my feet on the radiator that isn’t too hot.

I am very hungry.

Egg Salad with Capers and Dill

Here is the hard boiling technique that I use to get yellow yolks (cooked through, but not dry), tender whites, and shells that peel right off: Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with about an inch of water. Heat to the barest simmer. There shouldn’t be bubbles. You don’t want your eggs knocking around in there. It is important to keep the temperature of the eggs relatively low as they cook. Also, for easier peeling, use older eggs. Harold McGee can tell you why. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and, with a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked eggs directly from the pot into the cold water.

I take my time and use a very sharp knife when chopping my eggs so that the pieces are fairly uniform in size.

2 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 Tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 heaped tsp capers
Ground black pepper, to taste
A pinch of flaked sea salt (optional; taste before adding)

Mix the mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl. Gently fold in the chopped egg with a spatula. Top with the capers, dill, black pepper and, if using, salt.

Serves one, for lunch.
Serves two, for a snack.


Danielle said...

I'm so happy to see such a lovely post about egg salad (or "salad eggs," as my Alyce calls them). I think egg salad is one of the most perfect lunch foods. I've never added capers before but I'll certainly add them the next time.

And the mention of Brussel sprouts has me wishing that Matt hadn't done the groceries this week. He always passes by the Brussel sprouts.

A really great post!

darbyoshea said...

Love love love love this post.

Even though I'm an egg salad hater. A devoted one.

Rachel said...

Beautiful, beautiful writing. I'm captivated!

Those poor egg salad haters don't know what they're missing! Egg salad is a rare treat I fix more myself only when I have the forethought to make hard boiled eggs. I had no idea they weren't supposed to knock around! I feel like I've been abusing eggs for years!

jacqui | happyjackeats said...

Jess, this post is so quiet and relaxing. I absolutely love it. I also love egg salad. And would love to see the rest of those slides you mentioned.

Reading those last two paragraphs again, starting with "I let the liquid drain between my fingers" and ending with "I am very hungry" -- it's poetry. Leave it to you to write a poem about egg salad. I like you even more.

Have a great weekend!

Lisa said...

There are too many reasons why I love this :)

Kim said...

I came here via Jacqui's Twitter stream - beautiful words, and lovely-sounding egg salad (which I tend to love no matter what).

Jess said...

"Salad eggs." I love it, Danielle! Yes, do try the capers. Is Matt sure that he doesn't like Brussels sprouts? With all due respect to true Brussels sprout haters (I do not understand you, but I honor your choice to live a sprout-free existence), I have to ask: Was he, perhaps, traumatized by mushy, steamed Brussels sprouts as a child? I have seen cases like this before. Has he ever had them roasted with just olive oil, salt, and pepper, so that they get a little brown and papery on the outside and retain a slight crunch? There might still be hope.

Darbyoshea - Thanks, Em. And wait, what? You? I'm surprised. I never would have pegged you as a hater. We're going to have to talk about this.

Thank you so much, Rachel. You're very kind! About the eggs: Did you follow that link up there to read what Harold McGee has to say? I adore his writing. From what I understand, knocking around is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it means that the temperature of the water is probably too high, which can affect texture and flavor. The second reason is that all that knocking can lead to cracking. I also abused eggs for many years before McGee (or his book, anyway) came into my life. (Of course, let's face it, even an imperfectly boiled egg is often perfectly delicious.)

Thank you, dear Jacqui. That means a lot. Those slides, yes! And the many rolls of film I've got scanned and waiting to upload onto Flickr. I'll get back to it one of these days. Promise.

Hello, Lisa. Thank you, friend.

Hi, Kim. Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind words. Any friend of Jacqui's is a friend of mine.

Happy weekend, all!

Adrienne said...

Jess, this is such a beautiful post! And as a devoted egg salad lover, I wholeheartedly second your use of Hellman's and Grey Poupon. I usually add chopped pickles or celery, but I'll have to try capers.

molly said...

Well, now. I've a dozen eggs that I've been purposefully avoiding for two weeks -- enormous, marigold-yolked, favorite-farmer lovelies -- just so I could boil up a batch that might have half a chance of getting undressed, intact. But no particular plans, until now.

Fate, thy name is egg salad.

Megan Gordon said...

Such a wonderful, endearing post! I love reading blogs that force me to sit and slow down and savor the actual writing itself. Thanks, Jess.

Rosiecat said...

I can't help but love an opinionated cook, regardless of whether I agree. The reason I like such strong opinions is that it makes me stop and think, really think, about why I like what I like and why I do what I do.

I'm not going to lie: my thoughts rarely run to egg salad for any meal, even though I love eggs and could love egg salad. But I love your attention to detail, Jess--it's inspiring and a good reminder to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. xo

Char said...

oh yes...i'm a devoted egg salad fan..but of mine only and i'm a purist. i insist on miracle whip, salt and pepper only and between the freshest slices of bread. it takes me back to childhood.

Rogue Unicorn said...

I think I want to sit in this post a little and let it settle around me. Your words evoke home and love so strongly- it's such a serene and comforting poem you have here. xo

Amy said...

Jess, I am a huge fan of Sweet Amandine and feel like a bit of a groupie. I get email notification of every addition you make to the website and have to read your new posts immediately! I enjoy the recipes, but REALLY love your writing. You are gifted. By the way, I got turned on to SA through my 12 year, 5:45am walking buddy, your Aunt Jo! I hear that you're going to be in our fair city over Thanksgiving. I'm sad I won't be here to meet you and give you a hug of gratitude for the beautiful work you do! I'll just have to remain a cyber-groupie. Hugs to you and your family.

Nishta said...

do so love the pace & tone here, even if I am not a fan of egg salad just can't do it!

nicole said...

Yes -- love the tone of this so much. It creates such a beautiful mood ...

Jess said...

Hi, all. I apologize for falling behind on comments. It's been a busy few days!

Adrienne - Pickles, yes! When I first made this egg salad, I actually decided to add capers because I had wanted to include a chopped pickle, but we were all out.

It sounds to me as if you've got the perfect stash of egg salad eggs, Molly. Now, get cracking! (Har, har.)

Thank you, Megan. I really appreciate that.

And thanks to you, too, Rosiecat. I know what you mean about the value of hearing others' opinions, and how it helps to clarify your own.

Hi, Char. You are not the first Miracle Whip fan I've come across, and I've learned never, ever to get in the way of a Miracle Whip lover and the object of her affection. I also appreciate a sparer egg salad. This one's as fancy as it gets, for me.

Thank you, dear Rogue Unicorn. It makes me smile that you call it a poem. I hadn't thought of it that way. xo.

Hello, Amy! My brain was wrapped in Monday fog yesterday morning when your note came in, and you snapped me right out of it. Thank you so much for writing, for introducing yourself, and for saying such nice things. Seriously, you made my day. I'm very sorry that we won't be able to meet over Thanksgiving. Hopefully we'll have another chance one day. Hugs!

Hello, sweet Nishta, and thank you. I'm not terribly concerned about your egg salad aversion. There is no shortage of dishes that we can happily enjoy together.

Hi, Nicole. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to leave a note. I appreciate it.

Tracy said...

It feels so quiet, your writing. In a word, lovely. I know the scrape of the shower curtain. I often time bagels toasting and coffee brewing by that same sound. And your egg salad, the way it is dressed, perfect. I use that same chemistry with chicken salad. Except I haven't tried it with dill. Dill sounds genius to me. I am most likely the very last to know.

sonya said...

Jess, Lovely. One of my earliest food memories is of the egg salad my grandmother made for me. Large chunks of still-warm hard-boiled egg, bright yellow, Hellman's. I often get a strong need for an egg salad fix - nothing else satisfies in quite the same way. Very lovely ode you've written!

Lia said...

I took a break from blogging and reading food blogs for a little while and am slowly making my way back in again. I just discovered your blog and love it already. Beautiful writing and I was happy that the first post I read was about egg salad, one of my favorites. I'm curious how you wrote this. Did you just start writing and went with what you were thinking or did you sit down with a plan? Either way, I loved it!

Nisrine said...

I love your egg salad. I used to make it for lunch often but haven't done it in a while. Thanks for the recipe.

El said...

Great to have a straightforward recipe. Have a wonderful holiday!

Jess said...

Hello! I'm hitting the road soon, but I wanted to say a quick hello.

Tracy, thank you. And yes, toast, fried eggs, greens into the pan to steam, all things timed by that scrape. Dill plus capers: try it. It's a great combination.

I know what you mean, Sonya, about the very precise desire for egg salad that creeps up sometimes. And thanks for your kind words.

Hi, Lia, and welcome back to weird and wonderful blogland! I'm so happy that you found me. Thank you for your very nice note. About the writing: I sat down to write this post, and after about a half an hour, all I had was a few false starts about egg salad. So, I decided to forget about the egg salad for a second, and write about the current moment instead. I was hoping that if I could just get the words flowing, egg salad would work its way in somehow. This post is what came out.

My pleasure, Nisrine.

You too, dear El!

Wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.

megan said...

I made it for lunch, too :)


Jess said...

Hey, lady. I love it when you cook stuff. Did you know that? Come visit. xo.

Ċ½iupsnelis Druskos said...

What a beautiful BEAUTIFUL post!

I cant believe its only now that I've discovered this blog! Its wonderful. Stunning pictures, great recipes and fantastic posts that reads like a good book!

*Your New Fan*

Jess said...

Hi, Ċ½iupsnelis Druskos. And gosh, thank you! You just made my morning.

Sally said...

Will have to make your egg salad over our vacation week - my 4 yo is obsessed with hard-boiled eggs. I gather that you're in the Boston area? Have you tried the egg salad at Ula Cafe in JP? It's divine - has dill as well, and peas, which sounds strange, but really works.

LOVE your blog - you are a gifted writer - and I made your almond butter tart for a work potluck, and it was the first dessert (among 20 others) to be eaten - a HUGE hit.

Janice said...

I just found your blog this morning, and was drawn to your egg salad recipe because of those delicious capers. Happened to have a batch of hard-cooked eggs I needed to use up, so mixed up a batch of the salad and my husband and I are eating egg salad sandwiches now! I didn't have fresh dill so had to use dried, but it's delicious even like that. Husband said "make sure you keep the recipe, this is good!" Thank you for sharing :-)