Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce (Oeufs en Meurette)

In my life, lately, a phony has been masquerading as the real deal. I got married to someone who committed to me, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live, and then mysteriously bailed on me after a mere year and a half. And In Lyon, France, once the gastronomic capital of the culinary world, the cooks in those marvelous traditional bouchons are using Maggi bouillon cubes instead of long-cooked homemade stock. The workhorse of French cooking, stock is the basis for everything here, soups, sauces, and without it, you have a house with no foundation, a choreography with no dancers, a marriage without a husband.

Planning some blog entries, and wanting to make something traditional, from the bouchons, I looked at the menu of my favorite one, Café des Fédérations, and saw oeufs en meurette listed. I’ve been curious about these poached eggs in red wine sauce for a while now, and having only Saturday to cook, I thought it would make an excellent, and very French, brunch.

At the market I found shallots, eggs, garlic, poitrine de porc (to make the tasty ham strips called lardons), freshly churned butter, parsley, and hearty whole wheat bread. A tannic red, a Bourgogne, came from the wine shop, and poultry stock or veal stock from? I was stuck. I couldn’t roast bones and make stock in my tiny apartment kitchen, and didn’t want to use chemical-laden bouillon cubes, but this is France, surely there is homemade stock available somewhere.

I asked at the butcher, and they drew me a map to Picard, a strange and antiseptic store full of only freezers and frozen foods, but no frozen stock. I asked at the grocery store. No. I asked at the bouchon called Chez Paul, across the street from Café des Fédérations, and they directed me to a gourmet shop around the corner. Yes, they will have it, I was assured. It comes in a small container, just what we use, she said. Yet, once at the shop, they presented me with Maggi bouillon cubes. No, not that, “Je cherche le vrai fond de veau ou volaille,” So, as a last resort I hesitantly entered my favorite bouchon.

This bouchon is where my future husband and I celebrated our engagement with our invited families. Mine came from the US, his from Switzerland and France, and there we ate our way through the various specialties of Lyon: lentil and poached egg salads, quenelles with crayfish and lobster sauces, roasted leg of lamb, tripe sausages in mustard sauce, and Saint-Marcellin and cervelle de canut cheeses for dessert. The food at this restaurant was phenomenal, and the convivial atmosphere begged for a repeat visit.

I entered the restaurant and told the manager that I had been looking all over for real veal or poultry stock, and would they please just sell me a small container of it, I would be most appreciative, s’il vous plait.

“On n’a pas le vrai fond de veau,” she said, dropping the news like a week-old baguette. You what? You don’t have real veal stock? What with all the sauces you are making? Oeufs en meurette is on your menu, for crying out loud, and you don’t make your own stock? No, she says, we use bouillon cubes from the store, like everyone else.

So, armed with the truth, I've got a plan. Before my departure to NY, I'd like to eat at a bouchon as a farewell to Lyon, and I have decided that I will first call up a few places to ask which ones use homemade ingredients, including stocks, before choosing my destination. How I wish it were as easy with people. Hello, husband? Are you the real deal? Do you roast your own bones? What time is the last service? Oh, and are you insistent on turning tables, or will you let me stay awhile?

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce (Oeufs en Meurette)

adapted from a recipe at épicurien

Note from Banu: In keeping with the tradition of this post, I will call this kinda sorta phony oeufs en meurette, because I've seen recipes that appear more authentic than this one, and now that I look carefully, the recipe I used as a guide is Belgian! Other recipes use a bouquet garni (an assortment of herbs assembled to add flavor and fragrance to the broth), and ask you to poach the eggs directly in the sauce, before reducing it. As a novice egg poacher, I like this recipe because the eggs are poached in a separate, albeit milder (more boring) broth, but the filaments of egg white that remain after novice egg poaching will float around in a sauce you discard, and not one you eat. This is a fairly simple way to get the main idea of the oeufs en meurette, while still using real stock, which is easily found in liquid containers in most grocery stores in the US. Or, for the realest deal oeufs en meurette, you could make your own.

8 very fresh eggs
3 shallots, chopped
about a cup of bacon or pancetta, chopped (or, if you’re in France, poitrine de porc, demi sel - lard)
one bottle of tannic red wine, such as Bourgogne or Syrah
1 1/2 to 2 cups of veal stock or poultry stock
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
8 small slices of crusty wheat bread
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 stalks of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pan, and add the bacon or pancetta or lardons, and cook over medium high heat. When the pork is browned slightly, remove the meat from the pan, and saute the shallots in the butter, until soft and translucent. Add 3/4 of the bottle of red wine and the stock, and let the mixture reduce over low flame until 2/3 of it remains. Add the pork back to the sauce. Stir in the chopped parsley, and remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a liter of water, the remaining red wine, and the red wine vinegar to a very low simmer (the bubbles should barely break the surface). Very carefully, add an egg to the water, cooking them one at a time, so the whites don’t break up. Poach, gently, in the liquid for 3-4 minutes, or until the yolk is cooked a little, but still soft. Take out the egg, and let it rest on a paper towel, to soak up the extra liquid. Repeat with the other eggs.

Toast the slices of bread, and rub them with the garlic halves.

Just before serving, incorporate the flour into the remaining two tablespoons of butter by cutting them together with a knife, or a fork. Stir this butter and flour mixture into the sauce.

Place a little sauce on a plate, place two slices of toast on each plate, and top with an egg each. Pour a little more sauce over the eggs. Serve immediately.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust, Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins,
German Good Friday Pancakes and Homemade Sausage Patties

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