Friday, August 21, 2009

Ode to Julie and Julia - Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce

I finally saw Julie and Julia!

I loved it, of course. Meryl Streep as Julia Child?!!?? I mean get out of town on a hot catfish! I could watch Meryl play an embryo and be entertained for hours, much less the larger than life Julia!

The movie got me thinking about different types of cuisine and people's loyalty/fascination with them, as in Julia's real life obsession with everything French. The truth is, I don't think I could pick a favorite type or genre of food. Obviously, I'm head over heels for the simplicity and comfort of Southern American cuisine as well as Italian. But then again, I adore Mexican (both Tex Mex and Interior Mexican) as well as the exotic flavors of Asian and Indian food. The thought of not being able to change things up night after night gives me heart palpitations and makes me want to hide under the bed.

Of course, it's hard not to be seduced by the richness and all out indulgence of French food. In fact, Julia was so clearly in love with France itself, it makes total sense that she adopted the food as her own cuisine. Food after all is the shortcut to home, wether genuine or adopted.

My 'ode to Julie and Julia' recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook I received one Christmas from my mom in law, Charlotte, titled The Country Cooking of France. It's written by the modern day Julia Child (though not in personality - she's actually a quiet, elegant English woman by the name of Anne Willan.) And it's a gorgeous, gorgeous book - the kind that takes you to the land itself where the cows and lamb and vegetables grow and thrive versus just listing recipes.

The recipe is Oefs en Meurette - Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce. I followed the recipe for the most part but used Julia's gut bolstering wisdom (make no apologies) taking a liberty here or there. And because I wanted it to be dinner versus breakfast, I added a mushrooms on toast recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mustard's Grill Cookbook.

I hope the flavors of France, or at least the Joie de vivre that seems to accompany the food, people, and culture, find you often.

TIP: Poaching eggs can actually be just as unglamorous and frustrating as the scene of Julie attempting it in the movie. It takes practice, and even after you've mastered it - I suggest having more eggs than the recipe calls for at the ready in case of accidents. One trick that helps me is to first crack each individual egg into a coffee cup, then carefully dip the edge of the cup into the simmering water where bubbles have formed, carefully but swiftly letting the water enter the glass and carry the egg out and into the water - hopefully in one piece. If you strike out, simply try again, removing the broken up sacrificial egg with a spider. It's not the end of the world.

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce
Adapted from The Country Cooking of France, by Anne Willan
Serves 2 as a main course.

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1/2 bottle Pinot Noir (preferably French:)
1 cup veal or beef broth
4 eggs
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 celery stalk, thinly sliced (I subbed 1/2 teaspoon celery salt)
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 bouquet garni (simply a couple of fresh thyme, rosemary, and parsley sprigs tied together with cooking twine)
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
1 peanut sized chunk of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

bowl of cooled water, on standby for poaching the eggs

Bring the wine and the broth to a vigorous boil in a medium, rimmed saute pan (you need the liquid to be deep enough for the eggs to float, so use your judgement.) Break the eggs, one by one, into the part where the liquid is bubbling so that the bubbles 'spin' the eggs. Lower the heat and poach them at a very gently simmer until the yolks are firm but still soft to the touch, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon and immerse them into a bowl of cool water while you prepare the sauce (after a couple of minutes, you can gently lift the eggs out to trim uneven edges with scissors, then put them back into the water.)

Meanwhile, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bouquet garni, peppercorns, and a pinch of kosher or sea salt to the wine mixture and simmer until it is concentrated and reduced, about 20 to 25 minutes total.

Meanwhile, crush the butter and flour together in a small bowl using a fork to work the flour into the butter to form a soft pace (what the French call a Beurre Manie.) Bring the wine reduction back to a boil, and whisk in the beurre manie A PIECE AT A TIME, until the sauce coats the back of your stirring spoon lightly. You might not need all of the paste. Using a large sieve, strain the sauce into a separate, heat proof bowl or pot, mashing the veggies into the sieve getting all of the flavor you can extract out of it. Transfer this BACK to your original pan and stir in the chocolate until it melts and incorporates into the sauce. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Reheat the eggs by placing them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds (just a flash to warm through or they'll cook), then transfer carefully to your serving plate and spoon the sauce over. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

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