Happy New Year everyone! As an antidote to all the festive food, let's start the year with eggs. Not just any egg dish, but poached in red wine - the typically Burgundian Oeufs en Meurette.
The mind boggles at the idea of poaching enough eggs for the pickers of any of the larger estates but there are growers who consider this to be a real harvest dish. The late Patrick Bize was one of them - this recipe reminds me of him.
In the old-fashioned peasant version of this originally very rustic dish the use of onion and of flour is somewhat heavy-handed, and the red wine sauce is left to simmer for about three hours, presumably while the family were out in the vines. When they came home tired and hungry they only needed to poach the eggs before putting their feet up in front of the fire on which they could toast the slices of country bread rubbed with garlic. Methods have evolved!
A note about the wine - naturally this does not call for the most expensive Grand Cru, but do not use anything you would not be happy to drink. A good Pinot Noir would be my choice; use some to cook with and drink the rest. The other ingredients are cheap, and the effect is worth it. Serve the eggs either as a first course followed by something light or as a main course with a salad afterwards.
FOR 6 PEOPLE
6 fresh eggs 1 small onion 1 clove of garlic bouquet garni (fresh parsley sprigs, thyme, fresh or dried on the branch, bay leaf, all tied together with a piece of fine string)
1⁄2-3⁄4 bottle of Pinot Noir 125 g (4 oz) green streaky bacon in a piece 1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped parsley
FOR THE BEURRE MANIÉ:
1 teaspoon plain flour (for those who avoid wheat flour, potato flour (fécule) works well) 1 teaspoon butter at room temperature
FOR THE CROUTONS:
1 stick of French bread
1 clove garlic
Take the eggs out of the fridge so that they will be at room temperature when you need them. They should be fresh and not too large, or they will be more difficult to poach.
Peel and roughly chop the onion and one clove of garlic. Wash, dry and tie the herbs in a bunch. Put them with the wine in an enameled saucepan and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Make the sure the pan is wide enough to make it easy to poach more than one egg at a time in it.
Meanwhile, prepare the beurre manié by mixing the flour and butter to a paste with a wooden spoon in a bowl. Leave aside, not in the fridge but not on top of the stove.
Cut the bread, one slice per person. Peel and cut the second clove of garlic in half.
Remove the rind from the bacon and cut it into dice to make the lardons. Cook over a high heat until the fat begins to run and they brown, then drain on kitchen paper and put aside until the wine has simmered for 20 minutes.
Now add them to the wine, onion, garlic and herbs and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Pour the wine through a sieve into a bowl and return to the pan. From the debris in the sieve, extract the lardons and keep them warm - this is a little fiddly - maybe someone else could be delegated to do this while you poach the eggs. The same useful person could now grill the croûtons, (or they could be baked for about five minutes in a hot oven if that is more convenient), then rub both sides with the cut surface of the garlic.
Break the eggs into a teacup, one by one. Have the wine simmering briskly, but not boiling hard. Swirl the wine round with a wooden spoon. Tip in an egg, then another - two at a time is realistic for most of us. With any luck, the whites swirl round the yolks and about five minutes later you can lift them out with a skimmer, perfectly cooked, onto warmed plates. Timing will vary a bit.