#3: Mushroom ragout with poached duck eggs

After last week’s tempestuous entrée, you might be pleased to learn that this week we’re enjoying a far more congenial dining companion:

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Start with panfried mushrooms served in an intensely-flavored sauce based on a stock made from porcini mushrooms and aromatics, enriched with sour cream and spiked with thin ribbons of fresh tarragon and parsley. Ladle this over enormous garlic croutons, roasted until they are perfectly crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. And then top it all with the sumptuous fabulousness of a poached duck egg to create a luxurious mix of smoky, woodsy, herbal deliciousness. Really, what is not to like?

If you can find duck eggs, and if you don’t mind paying a premium price for them, they are worth using for this dish. And I’m not saying this just because we happen to have one or two extras lying around that I’d be happy to sell to you. Duck eggs, ounce for ounce, are higher in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats than chicken eggs. The yolks are enormous and they contribute an extremely rich, almost buttery flavor to the ragout that is an excellent complement to the crispy croutons and the mushrooms. If you can’t find duck eggs, then use the best chicken eggs you can find —  they really will make a difference.

My version substitutes homemade chicken broth for the white wine and water called for in the original recipe, but I suspect Ottolenghi’s vegetarian version is excellent as well. I also opted to forgo the splurge on truffle oil and instead followed his suggestion to drizzle the plate with olive oil to finish the dish. Perfectly lovely, but if I ever find myself with an unexpected fortune, that truffle oil would be a tremendous temptation.

Compared to the black pepper tofu recipe that I tried last week, this recipe also involved far less fuss; nonetheless, it is not a dish to make when you are rushed, or when you have hungry children imploring you for dinner. It is, however, just the thing you might want to make when you’re in the mood for a meditative afternoon in the kitchen. All it takes are six (relatively) simple steps:

1) Prepare the croutons. These could be made in advance and then reheated before serving. FWIW, I suspect this would be really really really good with soft polenta as well.

2) Sauté the mushrooms in batches until they are golden brown on each side and slightly crisped. I could have saved myself a lot of work by reading the instructions and not slicing all of my mushroom and instead quartering only the largest ones and leaving some of the smaller ones whole to contribute yet more interesting texture to the dish. It certainly would have sped up the sautéing operation.

3) Make the mushroom/vegetable stock. Again, not a complicated step, but plan to take some time for the porcini mushrooms to soak — and note, you only use the soaking liquid in this recipe; be sure to save the reconstituted mushrooms for some other purpose — and for the stock to reduce. As with the croutons, this could be made in advance and then reheated when you are ready to assemble the dish.

4)  Poach the eggs; drain them well and hold them in a warm dish in a warm oven (170 degrees). It’s worth warming the dishes you intend to use to serve this with as well.

5) Heat the stock together with the sautéed mushrooms; stir in the sour cream; add most of the herbs.

6) Assemble the ragout: Place 4-6 croutons in each bowl and ladle one fourth of the mushroom mixture over each serving. Top with a poached egg, sprinkle with the reserved herbs, finish with olive oil, and enjoy!

Finally, fwiw, please note that if you made the croutons and stock in advance, it would be very easy to pull this off for an elegant brunch… and if you can swing that, mimosas would be an excellent accompaniment. You deserve at least that.

Next week, something to brighten any winter-bedraggled spirits out there: Sweet Winter Slaw (102)

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