Spring has sprung with a vengeance in Paris — chestnuts in blossom, demonstrators in the streets — meaning it’s time once again for Crème de la crème, with ‘best of’ seasonal recipes from the first ten years of The Everyday French Chef. This time I’d like to highlight oeufs durs mayonnaise, a classic bistro dish. And, you may well ask, what’s so special about hard-boiled eggs? Well, homemade mayo boosts this simple dish into the stratosphere.
Oeufs durs mayonnaise / Hard-boiled eggs with French mayonnaise
Homemade mayonnaise is worlds apart from the kind of mayo you get out of a jar. And despite its reputation, it’s very easy to make — preparation takes less than five minutes. You simply mix egg yolks with Dijon mustard, lemon juice and salt, then add oil little by little to create one of France’s most versatile and elegant sauces. (For a demonstration, check out this video). Homemade mayo also marries perfectly with the eggs. And by the way, there’s a trick to ensuring that the yolks will be a beautiful bright orange-yellow, and not have the grayish hue of over-boiled eggs. It’s all in the timing (see recipe for details).
The recipe for oeufs durs mayonnaise is one of this site’s most popular, having been viewed more than 13,000 times since it was posted back in November 2012. Its simplicity is what makes this dish so appealing. At Paris bistros and brasseries, you’ll find oeufs durs mayonnaise served as a starter, either on its own or as part of a crudités vegetable plate. At home, it can be served as a first course or part of a lunch buffet, perhaps with shrimp with homemade mayo, anchovy-garlic dip, tapenade olive dip, herbal tomato salad and/or eggplant caviar. If you’re looking for something special to serve at Easter, look no further…
And now to my spring favorites. I’ve listed three dishes from each of the site’s categories — mix and match as you like. Many feature foods that come into season in spring: artichokes, asparagus, dandelion leaves, peas, raspberries, rhubarb, sorrel, strawberries. Beneath the list you’ll find menu suggestions for everyday and special meals for spring.
Assiette anglaise / Cold roast meat platter, French style
Navarin d’agneau printanier / Lamb with spring vegetables
Tagine de veau aux petits pois et citron / Veal tagine with fresh peas and lemon
Pasta and grains
Orecchiette aux petits pois et jambon de pays / Pasta with peas and country ham
Risotto aux épinards / Spinach risotto
Salade aux grains, sauce sésame / Mixed-grain salad with sesame sauce
As an everyday French chef, how would I combine these dishes? Here are some examples:
For an everyday lunch, omnivores might enjoy a dandelion salad with bacon followed by pasta with peas and country ham. For vegetarians, fresh sorrel soup followed by a spring omelet with fresh peas. For vegans, white asparagus followed by a salad with fresh peas and green beans. And maybe some seasonal fruit.
For an everyday dinner, white asparagus with a lemony cream sauce followed by salmon with sorrel sauce and a watercress salad. For vegetarians, pan-seared baby artichokes followed by spinach risotto. For vegans, artichokes with mustard vinaigrette followed by a mixed-grain salad with sesame sauce. If you’d like to add a dessert to any of these menus, go for fresh strawberries and rasperries, with or without cream.
For a weekend dinner, individual goat cheese soufflés, lamb ‘navarin’ with spring vegetables, a watercress salad and strawberry tart. For vegetarians, eggs ‘Mimosa’ to start, then white asparagus with hollandaise, Mediterranean spinach-feta pie and raspberry soufflé. For vegans, fresh pea soup with mint, pan-seared baby artichokes, watercress salad and rhubarb soup with strawberries and mint.
I’ll be back in two weeks with a new dish for spring. Part IV of Crème de la crème, in June, will conclude this special series of ‘best of’ recipes in celebration of the 10th anniversary of The Everyday French Chef.