Elisa Marshall grew up imagining writing a cookbook one day and even copied out recipes from her mother’s favorite volumes.
“It has always been a dream of mine,” says Marshall, who opened Maman in New York’s SoHo neighborhood with her husband Benjamin Sormonte in 2014. The pair now has eight more locations in New York (including one in Rockefeller Center), as well as two restaurants in Canada. “I remember making [cookbooks] as a child and having these fun binders and drawing pictures for photos of all the steps.”
Her family’s inventive and comfort-driven home cooking undoubtedly inspired her early love of food. One of the dishes Marshall specifically recalls eating enthusiastically (and regularly) is her mother’s egg salad.
“It was always a staple in all of our lunches. Some of my best memories were coming home from school and having lunch with my sister, at our dining room table,” says Marshall. “I think that [egg salad is] something that just brings back great childhood memories.”
When her dream of publishing her own cookbook became a reality—Maman: The Cookbook, co-authored with her husband and released last September—she knew that the egg salad would appear among the 100 recipes included. For one thing, maman is the French word for “mother.” Marshall has long called the open-face egg salad sandwich on her restaurant’s menu the “Janice Tartine” after, of course, her own mom. It’s served over a piece of country bread toast with avocado, watermelon radish and sprouts.
“A lot of the Maman recipes have been passed down generations,” she says. “This definitely being one of them.”
One of the many things that makes her egg salad special is the addition of chopped cornichon and pickle brine—a trick Marshall’s mom picked up from her own mother.
Read on to learn how to make Marshall’s delicious, next-level egg salad at home.
One way egg salad can quickly go awry, says Marshall, is by chopping the eggs too finely or by overmixing the salad, which can turn it into a paste.
“That’s probably why [many people] don’t like egg salad,” she says. Marshall prefers to roughly chop all the ingredients for her egg salad—especially the eggs. Additionally, she adds a modest three tablespoons of mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt for a healthier option).
Marshall also makes sure the yolks are cooked all the way through. To get the perfect texture, she brings the eggs to a boil in a pot, then removes the pot from the heat and lets them sit in the hot water for an additional nine to ten minutes. Before peeling, she chills them thoroughly and then keeps them submerged in cold water while removing the shells. “That’s one of my go-to tricks in terms of speed,” says Marshall.
What sets Marshall’s egg salad apart are her seasonings. Marshall starts by adding both mayo and flavorful Dijon mustard, which lends a creaminess and a spicy kick to the salad. She then incorporates celery, red onion, fresh dill and parsley, and chopped cornichons—plus a bit of pickle brine.
The brine “was something that my grandmother actually taught my mother,” says Marshall. “She would save the liquid from the pickle container and at all times in our fridge, we would always have an empty jar of pickles that would just be just the brine. It has the saltiness, the dill undertones and it has that nice contrast of tartness counteracting a little bit of the sweetness of the mayonnaise.”
Marshall recommends playing around with the flavor using different kinds of pickles in place of the cornichons. She likes a garlic dill or, for a sweeter twist, bread-and-butter pickles.
At Maman, Marshall likes to serve the egg salad atop a country bread tartine (or slice of toast)—a style for which the restaurant is well known. She then layers on avocado, watermelon radish (when in season) and a handful of microgreens or sunflower sprouts, all of which add a dose of fresh flavor and complement both the salad’s crunch and creaminess.
“There’s so much great flavor in the mixture that if there’s too much bread, it can kind of take away from the flavor of the filling,” she says. “Sometimes we serve it on a little brioche bun, but I love doing it as an open-face tartine.”
Of course, when making this egg salad at home, there are no hard-and-fast rules—it’s just as good on a bagel as it is eaten atop a salad. “It does have a lot of versatility to it,” she says, “which is nice because it’s a great breakfast, lunch or snack.”
Makes 4 tartines
8 Large eggs
1 Large celery stalk (about 2.5 oz), thinly sliced
Quarter of a large red onion (about 2 oz), finely chopped
.33 cup French cornichons, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Cornichon juice, strained
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Fresh dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Flat-leaf parsley leaves, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large Slices country bread
2 Avocados (about 5.5 oz), sliced
4 Watermelon radishes (about 2 oz), thinly sliced
Small handful of microgreens or sunflower sprouts
Place the eggs in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by half-an-inch.
Bring to a boil, then immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water.
After ten minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the ice water and let stand for five minutes. With the eggs still submerged in the ice water or while holding them under cold running water, peel and discard the shells.
Roughly chop the eggs and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the celery, red onion, cornichons, cornichon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, dill and parsley and gently fold to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use or for up to three days.
Using a toaster or the oven, toast the bread just until very light brown.
Spread the egg salad evenly on the toasted bread, being sure to cover the entire surface and pressing lightly to pack it together. Top the tartines with the avocado, watermelon radish and microgreens. Cut in half and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Maman: The Cookbook by Elisa Marshall and Benjamin Sormonte with Lauren Salkeld. Copyright ©2021