I’m a big fan of egg salad, especially during the summertime, when egg salad sandwiches make a great protein-rich hiking snack, and there are plenty of fresh vegetables in season that you can add to it that lend interesting flavors and lots of crunch. However, I’m not a big fan of mayonnaise, so I set out to make a rich, delicious egg salad without the help of that go-to sandwich standby. Instead, I found my egg salad paradise South-of-the-border, by turning to avocados, smokey grilled corn, and the refreshing bite of Mexican ingredients.
Now, I fully understand why mayonnaise is a key ingredient of egg salad—it provides a necessary fattiness, without which the salad would have no flavor. Believe me, I don’t have anything against the fat; theoretically, if I made my own mayo from farm fresh eggs and extra virgin olive oil, it would be a healthy addition to my diet. But making mayo from scratch is tricky — I’ve tried and failed — and I avoid commercial mayo for the same reasons that I avoid any processed foods made with stabilizers and other chemicals. Plus, as most of us know, mayo isn’t ideal nature-walk food because it can go bad so quickly. So, instead of a mayo base, I started out on my flavor path by adding mashed avocados and a healthy shot of olive oil to the hard-boiled and mashed eggs. Corn came next—it’s one of my favorite summer ingredients, and, as we know from Mexican cuisine, it’s a natural complement to avocado. By grilling the corn (you can use your outdoor grill or a grill pan on the stove-top), you bring out its richness, pull out most of the water, and give it a meaty heft. Whether you use a grill pan on the stove-top, roast the corn in the oven, or sear it in a pan, it’s absolutely essential to cook the corn until it has some caramelization. That’s how the salad’s flavor comes together. That caramelized corn is what gives the salad its base note—the same reason that many egg salad recipes call for bits of sweet, smokey bacon.
After the corn, I added some tried-and-true Mexican ingredients, including cilantro, lime, mint, red onion, cabbage for crunch, and jalapeños for a spicy kick. Jalapeños are the most readily available chile in most markets, but there’s no need to feel limited to using them. Mexican cuisine has such a wealth of flavorful chiles, both fresh and dried, that if you have access to different varieties, you’d be wise to try them. Some of my favorites include chipotles, which are jalapeños that have been smoked and dried, sweet and fiery-hot habaneros, and poblanos, the kind used for chiles rellenos or Mexican stuffed peppers. For a comprehensive guide on cooking with Mexican chiles, check out the wonderful Diana Kennedy’s instructional cookbook, From My Mexican Kitchen.
I suggest making this salad at least two hours before you plan to serve it, so that the flavors have time to develop. The times that I’ve made it, it tasted like an entirely different salad from when I first prepared it to when I sampled it again later in the day. As for serving styles, this egg salad works perfectly in a tortilla wrap, but it will be very much at home between two slices of bread, too. You can also go the gluten-free route and roll it in a fresh cabbage or collard leaf. Additions to your wrap or sandwich could include sliced tomatoes, pickles, chopped green olives, and shredded Jack or cheddar cheese. I hope you enjoy this South-of-the-border take on an American classic as much as I do. Happy trails!
Recipe: South of the Border Egg Salad
Makes just under 2 quarts of salad, or enough for 10 servings
3 ears corn, shucked
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 ripe avocado
2 cups red or green cabbage, shredded
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño chile, seeded, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
30 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the corn
Salt and pepper
Optional: Flour or corn tortillas
Heat a grill over high heat for several minutes until very hot. Brush the corn with olive oil and season generously with salt. Place the corn on the grill and cook for 10 minutes, rotating occasionally with tongs and basting with more oil. When the corn is tender and slightly charred on all sides, remove it from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Cut the kernels from the cobs.
In a large bowl, coarsely mash the eggs and avocado into bite-size pieces. Add the corn, cabbage, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and mint. Pour the lime juice and olive oil over the top, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Gently toss the ingredients together until just mixed. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for 2-4 hours before serving.
To serve, place a couple of heaping spoonfuls of salad in a tortilla. Fold the tortilla closed at one end, and roll to seal on 3 sides.
The salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Originally posted on Rachaelray.com on July 13, 2010.