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This Genius Egg Salad is a Love Letter to Eggs

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The genius of this egg salad is manyfold—it’s there in every component, from the few core essentials of eggs, mayo, and salt, to the sort-of optional garlicky bagna cauda toasts.

Nancy Silverton’s Egg Salad with Bagna Cauda Toast
Nancy Silverton’s Egg Salad with Bagna Cauda Toast

“It’s a very straightforward egg salad,” chef Nancy Silverton writes in her most recent cookbook Mozza at Home. “What makes it special is that every element of the salad is done correctly.”

While “correctly” is in the eye of the beholder, especially with something as personal as this, I do believe that if you love egg salads, this one will be an especially revelatory experience for you. And if you aren’t so sure about them, this is the one that will convince you. (I didn’t know I was an egg salad person until I met this one. You could be next!)

The care Silverton takes with each element turns egg salad into a fancy, full-blown meal—for parties of all sorts, or just a very good lunch. It's not the quick and easy path, but it's far better for it (plus most of it can be made ahead). Let’s break down how she'll help you perfect every last bit, shall we?

The Eggs

Boil the eggs just enough to be firm but yielding, with a still-glowing yellow middle. To be confident you’re not overcooking them, she has you crack open a sacrificial tester egg to be sure they qualify as done. Cook times can vary from pot to pot, especially when you want to take the lower-intensity path of letting the eggs cook through in just-boiled water, instead of keeping them at a constant 212° F hard-boil. With a tester egg, no guessing! (Plus you get to eat it.)

And with your cooked-just-so eggs, instead of finely chopping or mashing them, she has you tear them into chunks with your hands, giving a sort of undulating texture to the salad. Then you'll vigorously stir in the mayo and salt, so the yolks blend in to thicken the mayo further, into a soft, gloriously puddingy mass. All loose egg bits are snugly held and accounted for.

The Mayo

While there's a place for Hellmann’s or Duke’s (or whatever brand you identify with), commercial mayos each bring their own strong flavor profile. What you’re really looking for here is a rich, buttery cushion for the eggs, punched up just enough with garlic, salt, and a little spark of acid.

So, in Silvertonian style, make your own well-balanced garlic mayonnaise, a.k.a. aioli. But by using a mini-food processor, the whole thing whirs together quickly and you can skip the furious whisking that typically accompanies DIY mayonnaise.

The Salt

As Silverton writes, “Probably the real secret to my egg salad: I add enough salt”—enough to strengthen the subtle flavors that usually get overwhelmed by pushy ingredients like pickles and mustard. (For the same reason, this is the perfect place to use super-fresh farm eggs and really taste them. Blue shells are optional.)

The Toasts

You could eat this on any sort of serving device you feel strongly about—crunchy rye crackers, a bed of greens, “a slightly burnt bialy,” as Food52 community member Aliwaks recommends. But Silverton’s bagna cauda toasts, bathed in warm garlic-anchovy butter, are in every way the right contrast to the egg salad spooned on top: the warm to its cool, the crisp to its soft, the prickly intensity to its complete, elemental comfort.

Nancy Silverton’s Egg Salad with Bagna Cauda Toast

Nancy Silverton’s Egg Salad with Bagna Cauda Toast

Genius Recipes Genius Recipes
Serves 6 to 8

For the Egg Salad with Homemade Garlic Mayonnaise

  • 13 extra-large eggs plus 2 extra-large egg yolks, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium to large garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh chives (depending on your serving dish)

For the Bagna Cauda Toasts

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil + more for brushing the bread
  • 20 anchovy fillets, about 2 ounces (preferably salt-packed, rinsed and backbone removed), finely chopped and smashed to a paste with the flat side of the knife
  • 11 to 13 medium to large garlic cloves, peeled (divided)
  • Six or eight 1/2-inch-thick slices from a loaf of country bread
  • Maldon sea salt (or another flaky sea salt such as fleur de sel)
Go to Recipe

Photos by Rocky Luten

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to California-style egg salad fan Ali Slagle for finding—and styling—this one!

Tags: Egg, Tips & Techniques, Genius Recipes