The following post ran in the February-March issue of my Column The Sense of Taste. Readers coming to this site from the link in the column, please see the post before this one for many additional poaching tips.
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Although we’ve spent many hours together in the kitchen, the humble little egg still hasn’t given up all of its secrets. This isn’t to say that eggs are difficult to cook. They’re challenging only in that they provide an entire curriculum of cooking techniques. Eggs are both casual and refined. You can have them with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They take you to France, Italy, Spain, Asia, and a diner in a small American town. They satisfy your teeth both savory and sweet. With minimal cost, they elevate other ingredients or take up a starring role in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With a little dedication, cooking with eggs can become one of the most important techniques in your kitchen.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’d like to suggest a romantic morning recipe from classic French cooking repertoire, Oeufs en Meurette, or poached eggs in red wine sauce. If you make eggs for someone for breakfast, it means you care about them. If you make this egg dish for someone, your hearts might permanently join together right there at the table. With the first bite, the egg yolk oozes into the rich red wine sauce and the crevices of the crisp, garlic-laced bread. By serving it, you’re tapping into a vault of sensual French cooking and saying that you want to experience more of the world together. Poached eggs with red wine sauce is a sensual and beguiling gift of your affection.
It helps to view this recipe as the glorious sum of its parts: 1) red wine reduction, 2) sautéed bacon and mushrooms, 3) poached eggs, and 4) slices of toast rubbed with garlic—cooked in that order, but assembled in reverse. I wish you a most wonderful and romantic meal.
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Oeufs en Meurette
For the sauce:
- 2 cups stock (beef is preferred, but chicken or onion will do)
- 2 cups red wine (go for an inexpensive pinot noir)
- 1 thinly sliced small onion
- 1 peeled and coarsely diced carrot
- 1 coarsely diced celery stalk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- dash of cayenne
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the rest:
- 6 slices bacon cut into lardons (or tempeh bacon)
- 12 to 15 crimini or button mushrooms
- 2 to 4 very fresh eggs
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 2 to 4 slices dense white bread (I prefer sourdough)
- 1 clove of garlic, halved
- fresh thyme for garnish
Put all ingredients for the stock in a saucepan except for the flour and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced by half. Drain the mixture through a colander and into a bowl, discarding the vegetables. On your chopping block, work the flour and butter together and then add it to the sauce, whisking with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Return it to the saucepan and bring to a light boil for 30 seconds. Turn the heat off, cover, and set aside.
Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a deep saucepan for poaching the eggs. In a separate skillet, fry the bacon until crisp and set aside. Without cleaning out the pan, add the mushrooms and fry until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside with the bacon.
To poach the eggs, make sure the poaching water is at a gentle simmer, bubbling as lightly as possible. Add the vinegar. Crack one of the eggs into a small bowl. Place the lip of the bowl in the water and gently tip the egg into the pan. Repeat this process for all the eggs. Use a small spoon to fold the white back over each egg. Cook until the whites are set and the yolk still moves slightly inside the egg, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Trim off ragged eggs with a butter knife if you’d like. (If you aren’t serving the eggs right away, you can keep them ready in a bowl of warm water, or return them to the warm water in the saucepan for 30 seconds just before serving.)
Just before serving, re-heat the sauce as needed and toast the bread. Rub the toasted bread slices with the open the half of the garlic clove, putting one slice on each plate. Place a poached egg on the bread (I did this carefully with my bare hands). Pile the mushrooms and bacon on top of the egg and bread. Pour just enough red wine sauce on top, sprinkle with fresh thyme, and serve immediately with a fork and knife.