Bagged Lunch Ideas: Egg Salad w/ Caramelized Shallots & Chives

Like a wacky sitcom neighbor who pops in unannounced, summer has been arriving in New York in tiny sporadic bursts these past few weeks. It's too soon, people cry, as they pull off the jackets and cardigans they cautiously grabbed before leaving the house that same morning. The train ride home each night is either a mass of huddled girls shivering in prematurely ambitious shorts or steaming commuters, fanning themselves with their coats bundled in a pile on their laps.

The excessively hot days--today it's already hit 90!--make me sleepy, and when I finally get in the door and drop my piles and bags and heels on the floor (yes, the floor), the last thing on my mind is standing in front of my stove for an hour. Instead, my cravings these days have turned toward the cool and salad-like. I made this herby tuna salad one day, and a similar version with showers of lemon zest another (my mercury levels are likely through the roof at this point). There were two nights of simply pan-fried chicken breasts served on a big mess of greens with this embarrassingly easy Caesar dressing.

Last night, I just wanted egg salad. That's egg salad my way, with diced caramelized shallots, finely chopped onion chives, and generous dashes of both cayenne and smoked Spanish paprika. The resulting salad is simultaneously smoky, creamy, and spicy, with tiny bits of sweet. If you *really* want to make it my way, let the shallots caramelize just a bit too long until they're a little crisp. Let them hit that cusp just before burned, for a little extra smoke that I find irresistible.

Eugene likes his egg salad on big slices of freshly baked olive bread from the farmer's market. I take it straight up, spoonful after spoonful right from the bowl I make it in. It's my favorite bagged lunch, and so I always make just enough so that I can bring a few scoops with me to work the next day. Occasionally, it's all I can do to not eat it for breakfast! ;)

Everyone has their own methods and tweaks for making an ideal egg salad, but below is my style. To get the eggs fluffy and evenly sized, I grate them on the larger side of a box grater. If I'm making a lot of egg salad (usually for a brunch party), I just toss them into my food processor with the largest grating wheel in place. As impatient as I am, I also find it's best to wait until the next day to have it. An evening in the fridge does wonders for the texture and flavors, which is why it's an ideal dish to prepare to bring to work the next day.

No matter how many eggs I start with, I always find myself wishing I'd made more. This recipe calls for 8 eggs and makes enough for dinner for two, plus one more lunch tomorrow (you guys can fight over it!). It can, of course, be easily doubled or halved.

A Tip: If you prefer it in sandwich form for lunch, just pack it in a container with the two slices of bread in a separate baggy or wrapped in paper, and assemble the sandwich at the office. This will keep the bread from getting soggy (and you can keep the bread room temperature while you refrigerate the eggs).

Now tell me, how do YOU like your egg salad?

Egg Salad with Caramelized Shallots & Chives
Makes about 3 cups.

8 large eggs
1 large shallot, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon smoked spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt
Black Pepper
1/4 cup onion chives, chopped

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat just until the water reaches a rapid boil. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature (about 10 minutes). Shake pan gently to crack shells and place under cold running water for about 15 minutes (refilling with fresh cold water every so often).

While the eggs are cooking, heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and the shallots and saute until caramelized (about 7-10 minutes).

When the eggs are cool, peel and grate using the large side of a box grater. Combined in a large bowl with mayonnaise, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Fold in the caramelized onions and chopped chives.

Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge. Can be made up to 24 hours in advance.

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