Legend has it that each of the folds in a French chef’s toque represents a different way of preparing eggs. Oeufs en meurette is one of my favorites—poached eggs swimming in a hearty red wine stew studded with bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions. The dish hails from France’s Burgundy region, where you’ll also find such classics as boeuf bourgignon and coq au vin. The sauce and garnishes for oeufs en meurette are very similar to those of the latter. There’s a chicken-and-egg joke in there somewhere.
On many menus, you’ll find this poached egg dish as a starter, but I like to make it the main event. It’s the perfect warming meal for a cold winter day, especially with crusty bread to soak up every last drop.
~ French Recipes ~
Serves 2 hearty appetites.
3½ ounces (100 grams) lardons, or thick-cut bacon cut crosswise into short strips
5 ounces (150 grams) pearl onions, root and tip ends removed
9 ounces (250 grams) button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thickly
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
½ bottle (12 ounces or 350 ml) red Burgundy wine
5 ounces (150 ml) chicken stock
1 bay leaf
6 stems fresh thyme
1 whole clove
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter
1 heaping tablespoon (15 grams) flour
1. Prepare the garnishes. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add a big pinch of salt and the trimmed pearl onions. Boil them for about a minute, then remove them from the water and set aside to cool. (You can keep the water to poach the eggs in later.)
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the lardons over medium heat. Remove them to a paper towel–lined plate, keeping any rendered fat in the pan. Slip the skins off the pearl onions and place them in the pan. Cook until golden and tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set the onions aside in a bowl and add the mushrooms to the same pan. Increase the heat to medium high and cook the mushrooms until they give off their water and it evaporates, about 10 minutes. Set them aside with the pearl onions.
3. Now, in the same pan, start the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium. If there is no fat left in the pan, add a little butter to get things going. Add the diced onion and shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and stir until it releases its fragrance, about 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and chicken stock. Add the bay leaf, thyme and clove, and simmer until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
4. While the sauce is reducing, poach the eggs. Bring the pan of onion water to a bare simmer. Gently place in the eggs one at a time. It helps if you crack them into a ladle or large spoon first, then lower them into the water. Cook the eggs until they are softly set, about 3–5 minutes, depending on your preference. Keep them warm in the water while you finish the sauce.
5. Mash the butter and flour together to create a smooth paste called beurre manié. Whisk about half of it into the simmering red wine sauce, and let it cook for a few minutes to thicken. If the sauce isn’t thick enough—it should be viscous but not at all gloppy or pasty—add a little more and simmer again.
6. When the sauce is thickened to your liking, taste, adjust the seasoning and strain over the mushrooms and pearl onions in the bowl. Stir in the cooked lardons. Place the eggs in bowls and spoon the sauce over them. Serve immediately, with more red Burgundy and good bread.
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Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille.