To refrigerate or not to refrigerate; that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer….
Oops, wrong soliloquy.
It’s summertime and many a cooks’ thoughts turn to salmonella.
And most thoughts about salmonella center around eggs.
I was once told that more people die in Spain in the summertime from salmonella than from car accidents.
If you have ever driven in Spain you would you would appreciate the horror of that statement.
The basis is as follows:
- Many things in Spain, especially in summer, are served with mayonnaise on the side.
- The mayonnaise is always made in-house.
- The mayonnaise is normally in a large bowl, on the table; successive diners helping themselves.
- The mayonnaise is made fresh for lunch and again for dinner.
- It’s hot in Spain in summer.
- If you eat by American standards, say dinner at 7pm, you are having a late lunch by Spanish standards…. In other words, you are finishing off the mayo made for a Spanish lunch that has been sitting on the table for 5 hours.
I recently read on a blog that mayonnaise is not as risky as we have been led to believe.
So which is it? Fatal killer or misunderstood condiment?
Both, it turns out.
Commercial mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs with lots and lots of bacteria-killing acids like lemon juice and vinegar. It actually makes your salads safer than they would be without the mayo.
Home-made mayonnaise should be handled with more care as the acid levels aren’t as high and the eggs are normally not pasteurized.
That brings us to the eggs.
Are they really just salmonella-laden time bombs waiting to go off at first taste?
I thought this would be a simple question to answer.
What I discovered is that there are rather a lot of sources giving different opinions but all proclaiming to be right.
Opposite statements are rarely both true.
Opposite opinions even less often.
The following is what I think is true about eggs:
Many parts of the world do not refrigerate eggs. The eggs are not washed prior to sale (see above with feather attached). There is a protective coating naturally on eggs to keep out harmful bacteria and to help preserve the egg. If this coating is not washed off refrigeration is not required.
In the US eggs are washed prior to sale and they should be refrigerated.
The following is what I think about the rest of the hype:
Salmonella can be present both on the surface of the shell and internally.
As to the bacteria on the shell: If there is chicken shit on your egg – wash it before you crack it.
If you buy your eggs from organic farmers and / or farmers that humanely keep their chickens there is a significantly reduced risk of the eggs containing salmonella internally as there is less chance that the chickens will be infected.
No one should eat raw or undercooked eggs.
The same part of the world that doesn’t refrigerate their eggs also eats them raw. It’s been like that for years and no one seems particularly worried about it.
I certainly understand why people in certain higher-risk groups would want to avoid raw eggs.
But according to one US site the risk of a contaminated egg is 1 in 20,000.
I’m happy with my eggs.
If you’re worried about yours, try to buy them at the farmer’s market – and ask the farmer if they wash the eggs before sale and how he or she keeps their chickens.
Humane is best: nice for the chickens; good for the eggs.
Two recipes – one with a raw egg, one without:
Classic Caesar Salad
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup good olive oil
3/4 cup bread cubes, preferably cut from a bakery loaf or ‘French’ bread
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
lots of black pepper
3 anchovy fillets, mashed
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbs red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tbs Parmesan, freshly grated
1 large, fresh head of Romaine lettuce
Earlier in the day or the night before: Peel garlic, cut each clove in half and put it, along with 1/4 cup olive oil, into a small glass dish or glass measuring cup. Cover with cling film and set aside to steep. When ready to use, remove and discard garlic. Or use it for something else.
The croutons: Heat 2 tbs of the garlic oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the bread cubes and sauté until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.
The lettuce: Wash and spin-dry the Romaine. Tear it into large bite-size pieces.
The salad: Mash the anchovies in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire, vinegar, remaining garlic oil and mix lightly with a fork. Squeeze the lemon half over, sprinkle with Parmesan and mix lightly again. Add the Romaine and toss well with tongs or salad forks. Add the croutons, toss a bit more.
The egg: Crack the egg into a small bowl and break the yolk. Add it to the salad and toss well to mix, hands work best but a tongs will do. Serve immediately.
Just to be contrary – here is the Catalan version of Aioli, made without an egg.
Be a bit wary as this is quite hot. Garlic packs a lot of heat when fixed this way. You can cut it with
commercial mayonnaise if you like. This makes about 4 tbs of allioli. It
can’t be made ahead as it tends to ‘break’ upon sitting – still good,
but it has to be pounded back together.
4 large cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp sea, kosher or other coarse salt
2 – 3 tbs olive oil, the good stuff
Info: You have to do this with a mortar and pestle. The garlic has to be mashed. A blender or food processor will not work – you’ll get a bland garlic mayonnaise. The pounding pulverizes the cells, releasing allicin which gives it the sharp, hot flavor.
Method: Smack the garlic once with side of a knife to start breaking it down then put it in the mortar along with the salt. The texture of the salt is needed to help break down the garlic. Pound with the pestle until you get a paste. Yes, this will take awhile. (It took 10 – 15 total minutes for me to make this.) When you have a thick paste add the olive oil a few drops at a time and work into the garlic. Once the drops are incorporated, add a few more. Continue adding oil until it becomes difficult to incorporate then stop. If you add too much the sauce will break – the oil will separate from the garlic. This should look like a very thick mayonnaise.