Every chef has their little tricks and secrets. My good friend Tony Maws of Craigie on Main and the newly opened Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Cambridge/Somerville, MA may not admit it, but after years of dining at his restaurant, I know one of his. I call it the "pick some vegetables, pick some cured meat, add some herbs, and put a poached egg on it" trick, and I've found some variation of that dish on the dinner and brunch menu at Craigie on Main pretty much every time I've eaten there (which is a lot). I also tend to order it every single time because, well, it's a good trick.
Seeing as we just tackled perfect slow cooked poached eggs in yesterday's article on sous-vide cooking and we already have a foolproof method for more traditional poached eggs, the time seemed right to introduce this trick to y'all.
At Craigie, in the past I've had a sauté of wild mushrooms with nuggets of venison sausage, or root vegetables cooked into a hash with smoked beef tongues and corned cheeks. Their current menu has a version with chanterelle mushrooms, potatoes, and chorizo.
They say imitation is the best form of flattery. I say that flattery is the best way to get away with stealing great ideas and employing them yourself. If I've ever cooked you a fancy meal, then you've probably tasted some variation on this theme, as well.
This version uses fresh corn kernels charred until sweet and nutty, Spanish chorizo cooked crisp, scallions, and basil, with a sprinkling of brioche croutons cooked in the chorizo oil for crunch. Stir it all together with the soft egg yolks and it makes one heck of a little stew.
Start by cutting the chorizo into tiny cubes—as small as you can cut them. This will help them render faster and crisp better. Use a very sharp knife and a slicing motion—don't just press down—to get the smallest cubes possible.
You're looking for raw cured Spanish-style chorizo here, which is flavored with smoked paprika and has an intense flavor that it imparts to the red oil it gives up as it cooks down. Any brand of chorizo will do, but I use Palacio, which is readily available in most specialty grocers or online.
Moderate heat will give you the best results, allowing the chorizo to slowly cook and give off its fat without burning on the exterior. Once the cubes are crisp on all side, you're done. The question is, what do you do with all that rendered chorizo oil? Certainly we don't just throw it away, right?
Of course not.
Add some croutons in there to soak it up and crisp them all the way through. Brioche is a good way to go here.
With the crispy elements done, we move on to the sauté. Super high heat will get raw corn kernels to char while converting some of their starches and polysaccharides into smaller, sweeter, simpler sugars, intensifying their sweetness and adding a nutty, caramelized aroma to the kernels. It's one of my favorite ways to cook corn and a technique I employ regularly over the course of corn season.
With the corn cooked, just stir in a few aromatics—garlic, scallions, and a touch of basil—before adding stock and butter to help emulsify the sauté into a rich, stew-like consistency.
If you've been following The Food Lab, you'll have seen this post on perfect slow-cooked sous vide eggs and this one on traditional poached eggs, so poaching eggs will be old hat to you. For those of you who haven't, I suggest reading through those—you'll never have trouble with your eggs again, I promise!
The best part about poached eggs is that you don't actually need to poach them to order. Cook them until they're ready to serve, then pop them in cold water and you can store them just like that in the refrigerator for several days. To heat them, just plop them in a pot of hot water (around 140°F) or so until warmed through. They'll taste exactly the same as a fresh-poached egg.
To serve up the dish, just mix the chorizo back into the corn, then spoon some of that rich corn and chorizo stew into the bottom of a cup (you can go all fancy pants like I did and take out the wedding china while the wife is away), add the eggs, sprinkle them with crunchy sea salt, spoon some more stew, top with croutons and pretty little picked herbs, and you're good to go.
...when you stick...
...a spoon in it.
This version may be in its autumn years—the corn's only gonna be good for another couple weeks and I'm almost out of the overgrown basil from my deck—but it's a great dish, if I do say so myself. Feel free to crib this idea yourselves and run with it.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.
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