The Daring Cooks challenge this month is poaching. Now, that's a technique I do regularly. We make Crabcakes Benedict whenever we get a chance. That's my riff on Eggs Benedict. I replace the ham with a crabcake and mix some remoulade sauce into the hollandaise sauce. Here's where you can find the recipe: Crabcakes Benedict.
Since the first recipe listed for the challenge was old hat to me, I decided to try the second, Eggs en Meurette. It's basically eggs poached in red wine and served with a red wine, mushroom and pearl onion sauce on top of grilled bread slices. I've made it once and that'll be it as it's written. We weren't terribly fond of the dish - too winey - and it dirtied just about every pan in the kitchen. I tried to combine and make it easier but it just wasn't. And, to top everything off, the eggs were just about as ugly as eggs can be!
So, will we try anything like this? Absolutely, with several changes. I'll use the grilled bread and poach the eggs in regular old water. Then, I'll make a sauce that's much more balanced - not so heavy on the wine. I'll use diced onions in place of the pearl onions. The texture of the pearl onions just didn't work with the sliced mushrooms. I did go ahead and put two eggs on each piece of toast. I also halved everything but the quantity of mushrooms, onions and bacon.
Eggs en Meurette
1 bottle dry red wine
2 c chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
bouquet garni: thyme, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaf
2 T butter
1/4 lb sliced mushrooms
1/4 lb bacon, diced
16 pearl onions
olive oil for frying
8 slices 1/4" thick each, baguette
2 T butter, room temperature
2 T flour
salt and pepper
Poach the eggs in a mixture of the wine and the chicken stock.
You can tell from my notes that I'd ratchet the amount of chicken stock up a good bit. Remove the eggs from the poaching liquid and set aside. You'll need to warm them up later. When you poach eggs, it's best to crack each one into it's own little prep bowl. Then, they're all heading into their bath at the same time.
Into the poaching liquid go the veggies: carrots, celery and onion. Plus the bouquet garni. There are two ways you can deal with the bouquet garni. One is to put the herbs in whole then strain the liquid. The second is to wrap them in some cheesecloth tied with string. That's much more efficient - and guess what, one less dish dirty!
Simmer the veggies until the sauce has been reduced by half. You're not done with the poaching liquid but you're done for now...
Now, while the poaching liquid is simmering merrily away, you need to prep the mushrooms and bacon and onion. The recipe calls for sauteeing the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter then doing the same with the bacon. Can you say gilding the lily? Makes much more sense to me to throw the diced bacon in a small skillet and cook it til it's nice and brown. Take it out with a slotted spoon then slop up most of the bacon grease with a wad of paper towels. Toss the mushrooms in and let them get nice and brown.
They'll be even happier to have the fond - aka brown bits on the bottom of the skillet - leftover from the bacon. Once the mushrooms are nice and brown, toss in the pearl onions. Or, if you prefer, you can dice and brown a real onion. Whatever :-)
Let's see, we're back to the poaching liquid, aren't we. It's reduced by half so it's time to thicken it with a mixture of 2T of butter and 2T of flour. To make the mixture, you want to kind of cream the flour and butter together to make a paste. I found this made the sauce REALLY thick so don't put all of the flour/butter mixture in all at once. Keep a little chicken stock available to thin the sauce as needed. Now, unless you want to dirty yet another skillet, take the sauce and pour it into the skillet where you've got your happy mushrooms and onions.
Set the heat to low on that. Wash out the big skillet and dry it well. Cover the bottom with olive oil or butter - your cholesterol, your choice. Once it's shimmering, add the bread slices.
You're going to want to fry them until they're golden brown. Turn them over and fry the 2nd side.
While that 2nd side is frying away, heat the poached eggs in a little hot water. I didn't thinking the heat of the bread and the sauce would heat the eggs up enough. It didn't.
Now, you finally get to put your masterpiece together:
adapted from the Daring Cooks Challenge, originally from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan