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Bert Greene's Kitchen

Adult Egg Salad Brings Back Fond Memories

April 24, 1986|Bert Greene | Greene is a New York-based food columnist

The worst part of childhood, in retrospect at least, was hating every single thing I was given to eat.

Nothing that was ever placed before me on a dinner plate as a youngster received a gracious nod of approval. I ate under duress. As a matter of fact, one of the very first words I managed to pronounce--or so it was always alleged by my parents--was "yuck," spoken loud and clear in reaction to a bowl of steaming farina.

The worst foods I remember from my formative years were not cereals, however. They were school lunches. You know the kind: a snack composed of whatever comestible is closest at hand in the refrigerator or pantry by a rattled parent on a rainy morning.

My mother's specialty was soggy sardine sandwiches, a repast that instantly betrayed its incriminating evidence to everyone in my immediate circle. No matter how carefully the sliced bread was wrapped, telltale oil stains were manifest on the sack's surface by the time I entered the classroom. To this day, the smell of sardines along with the aroma of drying galoshes makes me queasy.

No Takers on Sardine Sandwich

Even 50 years ago, kids had the practice of swapping lunches. They would trade one of their tuna fish or ham sandwiches for someone else's peanut butter or cream cheese and jelly sandwiches. But no one ever made a bid for my sardines.

I know the grass is always greener across the way, but I must admit I hankered after more agreeable school fare for years. Until, as a teen-ager, I retired my mother from the role of lunch-maker and prepared my own, to her very evident relief.

When I became master of the brown bag, its contents instantly turned golden. For my preference then, and now, in sandwich fillings is the same--egg salad.

Although nutritionists may look askance, eggs have always been my favorite fast food. Throughout the years I have developed a remarkable repertoire for converting eggs into sandwich filling; some so good that I often skip the bread and serve the salad on lettuce alone. Try the following recipes as evidence. Each is worth two caviar sandwiches in trade--at least in my opinion.

I call this recipe Adult Egg Salad because kids have a tendency to stick up their noses at shiitake mushrooms and soprasatta.

ADULT EGG SALAD

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 large shallot, quartered

1 large shiitake or porcini mushroom, cap and stem, roughly cut

1 tablespoon minced Italian hard salami, like soprasatta

6 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and chopped

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon chopped chives or green onion tops

Salt, pepper

Melt butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallot and mushroom. Cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and finely chop. In same skillet, saute minced salami until crisp.

In medium bowl, combine eggs with chopped shallot, mushroom and salami with residual drippings from skillet. Add mayonnaise and chives. Mix well. Salad will be relatively dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3 1/2 cups, or enough for 4 sandwiches.

I learned to make the next egg mixture when I lived in southern France, about five miles out of Nice. In Eze village we made the dressing with creme fraiche, anise-flavored liqueur and softened butter, but sour cream is quite an acceptable stand-in at home. EGG SALAD NICOISE

6 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and chopped

1 cup minced fennel

1 teaspoon minced chives or green onion tops

1/2 tablespoon sour cream

2 tablespoons softened butter

1 tablespoon anise-flavored liqueur

2 tablespoons sliced black olives or Nicoise-style olives

2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds

Salt, pepper

Combine eggs, fennel and chives in medium bowl. In small bowl, combine sour cream, butter and liqueur. Mix well and add to egg mixture. Mix gently and add olives and fennel fronds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3 1/2 cups, or enough for 4 sandwiches.

The following egg salad recipe was invented in Texas not too long ago by the woman who was my daily escort on a media tour in Dallas. She knew from my schedule that lunch was not on the agenda and provided sandwiches of peppers and egg salad instead.

EGG SALAD, RANCHERO STYLE

1 medium sweet red pepper

1 jalapeno chile

6 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste

1 green onion, minced

2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

Roast red pepper and jalapeno chile over flame or broil in oven until skins are blackened. Carefully wrap in paper towels and place in plastic bag until cool. Rub off charred skins. Core, devein and finely chop.

Combine pepper and chile with eggs, anchovy paste, onion, mayonnaise and cilantro. Mix thoroughly. Makes about 3 1/2 cups, or enough for 4 sandwiches.

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