For me, the mayo salads are all about the egg.
Recipes included in this post: Egg Salad/Deviled Eggs, Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad
Let’s begin with my disclosure that I am a mayo salad purist, pretty much, making all of them with only 2-4 ingredients. Except for the few things I might add to a macaroni salad, in general we don’t care for those salads that throw in the whole garden.
Let’s Talk Mayo
I grew up knowing only Miracle Whip® as mayonnaise, but when I started living on my own, I tried Hellmann’s® and never looked back. You will use what you like. Here’s one view of the difference: http://healthresearchfunding.org/difference-miracle-whip-mayonnaise/
Recently, I’ve been trying the Hellmann’s® blend made with olive oil, and while the taste is a little different, it does stand up to things like macaroni or potatoes, staying creamy and soaking in less than the regular mayo. But it definitely has a different taste, maybe a little sweeter. I’ll let you know in each recipe when I might use it.
Egg Salad/Deviled Eggs
Some might say that all my mayo salads are really egg salad, with some having a few potatoes or macaroni thrown in. Whatever.
6-12 hard-boiled eggs, based on your crowd
- Cold water start method:
- Place eggs in saucepan large enough to hold all eggs on the bottom and deep enough to cover with at least 2 inches of water. I tilt the pan a little when placing the eggs, so they don’t roll around before I add the water.
- Cover with cold water. My mother always put a teaspoon of white vinegar in the water to prevent a cracked egg from running out of the shell, but I have never had one crack that badly. Poached eggs is a completely different situation where the vinegar really helps hold them together.
- Bring to boil over medium heat. I use a lid to hurry along the boil, but don’t go wandering away too far or you will return to boiling water and not know how long it has been boiling. If that happens, you’re just guessing on the remaining time!
- Turn off heat (if using electric, move pan to another burner). Cover with lid and wait 10-20 minutes. What? This part varies by cook. My mother said 20 minutes and it surely works. A comment on Twitter said 17 minutes to keep the yolks bright yellow. Others say ten minutes is enough, but that you need to test an egg and re-boil, if necessary (I’m not testing and wasting an egg or re-boiling).
- Immediately run cold tap water into the pan, pouring it off and filling until the eggs have cooled enough to touch. Remove to a paper towel or bowl.
While you can put the eggs in the refrigerator and make your dish later, the benefit to working with the eggs while still warm is that the flavors of your ingredients blend together better—kind of like in cooking.
Crack and roll the eggs to loosen the shells and good luck peeling. Yes, older eggs are said to peel easier, and sometimes I think that’s true, sometimes not. Except for the loss of egg white, poorly peeled eggs mostly matter for deviled eggs.
I have never measured how much mayo to use. I just eyeball it based on whether I want a creamy, fluffy egg salad, like for stuffing a tomato, or whether I want a sandwich filling, which I would make a little drier (and I might add some fresh dill).
For Egg Salad: Mash the eggs with the back of a fork or a potato masher if you are making a lot. The fineness of the eggs is a matter of preference. Mix in the mayo. That’s it, except for salt and pepper to taste.
For Deviled Eggs: Slice each peeled egg carefully, lengthwise with a thin, sharp knife. If you can see through the egg that the yolk lies more to one side than the other, I would place the yolk side up and slice through it so your halves have similar indentations for filling.
Carefully tip each yolk half into a bowl, using the tip of the knife. Unless you are only making a few eggs, use one extra yolk, leaving two halves with no filling. Mash the yolks with the back of a fork and mix with enough mayo to make a fluffy filling. You want a lot of filling and to do that you need a lot of mayo unless you have many extra yolks.
As you can see in the photo, I don’t just fill the hole where the yolk was, but cover the entire top of the egg half. This way you get filling in every bite.
I don’t sprinkle the eggs with paprika nor add any other herbs or spices, and I definitely don’t add mustard.
Except for having switched to Hellmann’s® I make potato salad exactly as my mother made it. My husband says it’s the best he’s ever had, so I see no good reason to change. I think this recipe will make a large bowl of potato salad, but I really just kind of guess how many potatoes to use each time, and that can depend on the potato type.
6-8 cups of boiled, peeled, cubed potatoes
6-8 hard-boiled eggs (this is where other people skimp)
1/4-1/2 medium onion, finely grated (it should be all juice and pulp, no discernible chunks or pieces)
Lots of mayo
Salt & pepper to taste
Make the eggs and potatoes at the same time. One will be done first, so just work with whichever one it is. Peel both the eggs and potatoes while warm, cutting the eggs into eighths and the potatoes into about one-inch chunks. Grate the onion into the bowl with the warm ingredients and add a lot of mayo. The warm potatoes will absorb much of the mayo during the chilling, and if it’s not creamy enough when you serve it, you can add more.
I don’t think I ever saw my mother put fewer than 6 eggs in a bowl of potato salad, and those yolks make all the difference. I often add 8 or more. And, again, no mustard, please.
- Different potato types will make the texture different, but will taste pretty much the same. I like the red waxy potatoes or Russet, but those new yellow butter potatoes work, too. A mealy potato that is made for baking will not hold together and will give you more of a mashed potato salad that some people like. The red potatoes keep a firm texture and may absorb less mayo that others.
- Leave the skins on if you want something more rustic in appearance. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I would not leave a Russet skin on if it were thick.
- I would not use the Hellmann’s® olive oil blend with potato salad because it has too distinctive a flavor that would just disappoint us. Kind of like when my husband takes a bite of quiche, expecting custard pie.
Here’s where I can go a little crazy with ingredients, even occasionally abandoning both the eggs and the mayo. Shocking!
1 lb elbow macaroni or small shells
6-8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in eighths
1/4-1/2 medium onion, finely grated
Lots of mayo
Salt & pepper to taste
Like the potato salad, make the eggs and the pasta at the same time, so you can work with warm ingredients. Mix everything and chill.
- For some reason, I like some vegetables in macaroni salad, grated carrots and peas are favorites.
- For a one-dish meal, add seafood:
- tuna and peas make it a cold cousin to Tuna Casserole
- chunk crab (real or imitation) with roasted red peppers and black olives is a rich alternative (sometimes I use Italian dressing instead of mayo here)
- Hellmann’s® olive oil blend is good with macaroni, staying creamy after chilling, more so than the regular mayo
To recap: use lots of hard-boiled eggs and a good eggy mayonnaise, lots of it. Keep it simple.