Citizens! Since my last recipe was for an insanely-delicious garlic rye bread baked with horseradish leaves, and this dish just happens to beg for rye toast, it seemed to be a logical follow-on!
As such, today I am honored to share with you a ridiculously-easy recipe that holds tremendous spiritual and mnemonic importance to Ashkenazi (Eastern European-descent) Jewish men above the age of 45! Yes, I speak of nothing less than the classic dish for salami and eggs, the quintessential ‘bachelor chow’ for my father, his grandfather and even to a lesser extent in the antediluvian past: my own sublime person!
This was known as bachelor food because it was quick and easy to make by an unmarried Jewish man, traditionally a scholarly man with limited ‘life skills’ such as cooking that would be handled in the family unit by the wife. This dish was dirt cheap to make, impossible to screw up, calorie-rich and very tasty. As a bachelor before the time of food delivery services, this hit every positive data point for many Jewish men of the 19th and 20th centuries.
All this said, this seemingly simple dish could be made in many different ways. This humorous 2008 article from nytimes.com with actual banter between the editor and the writer in the text and comments of the article demonstrates this:
Ed and I both grew up eating salami and eggs. You cut thick slices of salami (Ed’s right: kielbasa is better, but we didn’t know that back then), into chunks and brown them a little bit. In Ed’s household you would use that as the base of an omelette; in mine, you would scramble the eggs, keeping them soft, and top with mustard. (I don’t usually disagree with Ed, but when he’s wrong, I have to say so.) These were the delicacies that defined New York a half-century ago. –MB
Real salami, the Italian or French kind, is raw and rank and often quite hard. The salami I grew up with, the New York kosher kind, is cooked and garlicky and generally quite soft. Not a salami at all, really. More a non-pork variation on a typical Eastern European garlic sausage — think kielbasa. This is no surprise when you consider where most of New York’s Jews came from. More Pinsk than Padua.
One of my father’s favorite suppers was salami and eggs: you brown eighth-inch slices of kosher salami in a skillet with a little oil, pour seasoned beaten eggs over them and cook over medium-low heat. Lift the edges and let the uncooked egg flow underneath until it is set into a pancake-style omelet, flipping it to finish the other side. In our house, it was served, invariably, with ketchup. Heinz’s.
It turns out that England’s Jews have the same thing, but with a name that does a better job of evoking its geographic origins: wurst and eggs. Or, as our friend Helen assures us it is pronounced, at least in her family, woosht and eggs. I love saying that: woosht and eggs. I forgot to ask her whether it is served with HP Sauce –- culturally, a rough UK equivalent of our ubiquitous ketchup.
Nowadays, my fridge is more likely to contain a smoky, garlic-rich Polish-style kielbasa than a supply of Hebrew National kosher salami — or woosht. So, when I get my periodic fit of nostalgia, it is generally this that gets sliced and turned into a treif parody of the salami and eggs of my childhood. It is delicious and disconcertingly similar to the kosher version.
Edward Schneider April 21, 2008 · 3:52 pm
Softly scrambled eggs I can live with; might even be an improvement. But mustard rather than ketchup?!? I splutter with indignation. I cannot trust myself to keep a civil tongue in my head, so will limit myself to saying — and everybody will certainly agree with me — that that is unnatural and wrong.
Interestingly, tabletmag.com continues to riff on the nostalgia factor of the dish:
I was not fortunate enough to grow up in the era of salami and eggs. Throughout the early and mid-20th century, the dish—an umami-heavy mix of beef salami and pillowy eggs—was a weeknight staple for Ashkenazi Jewish families.
And for a generation of American Jews, it holds deep nostalgic appeal. But by the time I was being raised in the 1980s and ’90s salami and eggs had fallen by the wayside, victim of those decades’ obsession with all things low-fat and low-cholesterol. I sure missed one delicious boat.
Salami and eggs can certainly be served at breakfast, but like matzo brei, noodles and cottage cheese, or its closest cousin lox, eggs, and onion, the dish also offers a trifecta for ideal quick dinners: flavorful, filling, and profoundly foolproof. From start (slicing the salami into thick rounds, cubes, or matchsticks and whisking a couple eggs in the bowl) to finish (daubing the jumble with a bit of yellow mustard), the entire process takes under 15 minutes.
For many Jewish families, the dish was considered “Dad food,” meaning a dish that was simple enough for a culinarily challenged father to whip up for himself and the kids when Mom had an evening mah-jongg game.
As you can see, this is indeed a dish replete with tasteful memories to any Gen-X and prior Ashkenazi man, and how you make it is the key to its final success!
Obviously, in a dish with 3 basic ingredients, the quality of each item is incredibly important to making this recipe. Salami is the heart and soul of the dish, but what KIND of salami depends on your age, your nationality and your pocketbook. The classic salami for this meal is Hebrew National and it is a perfectly fine version to work with and easily found in any supermarket.
A second choice is going with a delicious Russian garlic salami of Jewish origin, known as ‘Evreiskaya’ – this is my go-to, personally and you can buy it here. If you keep kosher, this small-batch artisinal kosher salami should be your perfect selection!
Many recipes for salami and eggs are just that – but TFD prefer to add caramelized onions to His recipe, as well as a hint of dill. I prefer to go old-school with the cooking fat for this dish and use rendered schmaltz (recipe here) to cook with (or just use butter if you don’t keep kosher or care about old-school authenticity).
If you do keep kosher and want to keep the dish a bit lighter, you could use vegetable oil instead of the schmaltz and you should use definitely water instead of the half-and-half to cook with the eggs.
Citizens, this dish from the hoary past of Jewish cuisine deserves a re-examination by Jews and Gentiles alike, and I hope you will try this at your earliest chance! You’ll thank me, I promise! As you’ll see from the recipe, I fall firmly into the camp of ‘scrambled and mustard’ category.
Battle on – the Generalissimo
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