Updated: Nov 17
There are some meals and flavors, like pieces of music, that even if experienced once, are never forgotten. One of these was a simple poached egg in red wine sauce served over thirty years ago at a restaurant in Paris called Pierre Vedel. Walking into this restaurant was entering a time machine. I recall dark wood, lace, and heavy velvet, all signifiers of traditional grande cuisine. I am sure these are fabricated memories of the décor, because the food tasted like a long ago roadtrip through pre-war Burgundy armed with a 1926 edition of the Guide Michelin. For years I assumed Restaurant Pierre Vedel was a storied institution, the kind of place where Paul Valéry and André Gide whiled away the afternoon at literary lunches à deux, or stodgy politicians of the Third Republic dined, plotting the downfall of yet another center left coalition government over coffee and cigars. I was amazed to discover recently that Pierre Vedel opened in 1977! And, even more incredible, Pierre himself is still with us, now retired from cooking and devoting himself to painting. On the basis of his oeufs en meurette, I had convinced myself that this person had been born in the 19th century.
The ladies at the barn provided me with some eggs this past week, so it was the opportune time to try my hand at oeufs en meurette. Nothing out of my kitchen could replicate Pierre's fabulous dish, but even an approximation could be delicious.
The eggs this week are brought to me by Ginger and Pidge. I also like the eggs from the Rhode Island Reds, Dipsy and Georgie, who are currently being bullied by Puff. I thought Ginger or maybe Olive, two of the bigger birds, could mount a resistance to the increasingly authoritarian administration inside the henhouse, but they have not offered an alternative narrative that the other chickens can get behind. The more time I spend around the coop, the more I am sucked into chicken politics. I have learned that we must be vigilant, as not even fluffy butts can protect against the erosion of democratic values.
The first ingredient for the sauce, bacon, posed an obstacle. We are not pork eaters, and while I can live without bacon and pork for the most part, and I generally don't bother trying to find substitutes for meats, certain sauces require that deep, fatty, earthy flavor. There are many recipes for vegan bacon and fake bacon, but I did not need to replicate the textures, just the taste. After taste testing a number of options found on the interwebs, I hit upon the undeniable bacon flavor courtesy of America's cooking genius Bryant Terry (if you don't have his brilliant vegan cookbook, Vegetable Kingdom, stop reading this and go buy it!). I used his recipe for umami powder and added a few drops of liquid smoke, as well as a quarter teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and, using some tofu test strips, husband confirmed that we had achieved bacon!
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon Bryant Terry umami powder:
¾ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, roughly chopped
¾ cup whole raw cashews
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
a few drops of liquid smoke
1/4 tsp Worcester sauce
you can add a bit more salt to taste
Oeufs en meurette
bacon flavor (see above)
half a yellow onion, chopped
6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and thickly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bottle of light bodied red wine, preferably Pinot Noir
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
tablespoon good quality red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
chives or green herbs of your choice
Add a few tablespoons of "bacon" flavor to a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.
When oil is hot, add onions and mushrooms and cook until the water from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Don't commit the culinary crime of crowding your pan, as I have done here. Learn from this.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add red wine, sugar and thyme. Enjoy the beautiful color of the sauce at this stage.
Simmer until the wine has reduced by a third (~ 20 minutes).
Add red wine vinegar and a few tablespoons of water and continue to simmer on low until the sauce has reduced by another third, about 15 minutes.
Poach an egg to your taste. I like them fairly runny on the inside, and simmer my eggs for about 3-4 minutes in water that is bubbling but not boiling. I have no particular tips on how best to poach an egg except that I find stirring the water and creating a vortex into which you dunk your raw egg does help it hold together better while poaching. I have not mastered egg poaching, however, and still lose a fair amount of egg white in the process.
Assemble by spooning first the sauce and some of the mushrooms into a dish, and top with an egg. Garnish with chives or any green herbs of your choice. This recipe makes enough sauce for ~4 eggs.
Oeufs en meurette can turn into a meal if you add some challah toast sticks pan fried in butter. This is as good a use of butter as any in the history of Western Civilization. I know this is a broad statement, but I stand by it.