Why It Works
- Preparing a batch of sautéed vegetables for the garnish and keeping them aside until the end guarantees they won't turn to mush in the simmering sauce.
- A gelatin-rich stock adds body to the sauce, requiring less flour later to thicken.
When's the last time a "light" version of anything tasted good? Light beer, light salad dressing, light snack foods...no thanks. But here's one light food I can get behind: eggs en meurette. Think of it like Burgundian coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon, minus all the heavy meat and the lengthy braising time.
Of course, eggs en meurette isn't really a health-driven "light" version of those famous Burgundian braises. It's a classic Burgundian dish unto itself. Just like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon, eggs en meurette stars an inky red-wine sauce layered with the flavor of porky lardons, earthy mushrooms, and a range of aromatics like onions, carrots, and garlic.
In place of big pieces of chicken or chunks of stewing beef, though, eggs en meurette's main ingredient is the humble poached egg. That makes it light enough to be a perfect meal year-round, unlike a beef or chicken stew.
The main task in the recipe is preparing the sauce. I start it by making the garnishes, first sautéing lardons of bacon until lightly crisped, then mushrooms until browned, and finally carrots and pearl onions (though diced shallot or onion would work just as well) until just tender and starting to brown. I set those garnishes aside, since leaving them in the saucepan would overcook them to mush.
Next, I add large chunks of aromatics—mushroom trimmings, some pieces of carrot and shallot or onion—and brown them quickly, deglazing the pan with red wine before the fond that's built up on the bottom can burn. For the wine, you really just want a dry red one. After testing how important quality is when using wine for cooking, I found that in most cases you're better off saving your money; heat quickly eradicates most nuances of a wine, which means using a more expensive bottle, like, say, a proper French Burgundy, is about as smart as running your cash through a paper shredder. Any inexpensive dry red will work. The only thing you absolutely shouldn't use is a "cooking wine" product, which isn't true wine but instead a terrible imitation loaded with salts and other additives. It creates truly horrid food.
Some recipes for eggs en meurette use nothing more than wine for the liquid in the sauce, but others call for veal stock to be added as well. Veal stock adds meaty richness and body while helping to cut some of the wine's sharpness, but few of us have it kicking around at home. I like to use chicken stock instead, making sure it's rich with gelatin; that means either using a homemade stock that was made with collagen-packed parts like wings and feet (the collagen transforms into gelatin as the stock slowly cooks) or using store-bought stock that's been enhanced with unflavored gelatin. A gelatin-rich stock is critical since it adds body and viscosity to the sauce, allowing us to cut down on the total amount of other thickeners like flour, which can dull the sauce's flavor.
Once the sauce has reduced, I strain out the aromatics, then return it to the pot and whisk in some beurre manie, which is just a fancy way to describe a butter-and-flour paste. Mixing the two together coats each particle of flour in fat, preventing the flour from forming lumps when it hits the sauce. If it weren't for the gelatin in the sauce, I'd have to use even more beurre manie to get a good spoon-coating sauce consistency. With it, I can use less, and less flour means a cleaner and more pronounced flavor in the end.
The final step is to add the reserved garnishes back to the sauce and season it to taste with salt and pepper. For each plate, rub a piece of toasted country bread with a clove of garlic, set a poached egg or two on top, then spoon the sauce and garnishes all over.
That's right. In my crazy world, this counts as "light" food. Maybe I should try mass producing it for the diet crowd. It'd be the best thing they've eaten in years.
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 packet (1/4 ounce; 7g) powdered unflavored gelatin (only if chicken stock is low in gelatin or store-bought; see notes)
4 ounces slab bacon (115g), cut into lardons (small batons)
6 ounces cremini mushrooms (170g), stems reserved and caps quartered
Vegetable oil, as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium carrots (3 ounces/85g each), 1 cut into 1/2-inch dice and 1 cut into 1-inch pieces, divided
4 ounces defrosted frozen pearl onions (115g; about 40 small), see notes
2 medium shallots, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
2 medium cloves garlic, divided
1 sprig thyme
2 cups dry red wine (475ml)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (30g), softened
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch sugar (optional)
4 pieces toasted country bread
Minced flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
If adding powdered gelatin to chicken stock, pour stock into a measuring cup or medium bowl and sprinkle gelatin all over the surface. Let stand.
In a 3-quart saucier or saucepan, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate, leaving rendered bacon fat in the saucier.
Add diced mushroom caps and cook, stirring, until they release their water and then brown all over, about 6 minutes; add oil as needed at any point if saucepan becomes too dry. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape sautéed mushrooms onto plate with bacon and set aside.
Add small diced carrot and pearl onions to the saucier, and cook, stirring, until just softened, about 5 minutes; add oil at any point if the pan becomes too dry. Transfer carrots and pearl onions to plate with bacon and mushrooms.
Add reserved mushroom stems, large diced carrots, shallots, 1 clove garlic, and thyme sprig to saucier and cook, stirring, until just starting to brown; lower heat and/or add oil to saucier at any point to prevent scorching. Add red wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pan. Continue to simmer until wine is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, mix butter with flour until thoroughly incorporated; keep cool.
Add chicken stock and gelatin to saucier and return to a simmer. Continue cooking until reduced by one third. Strain sauce into a heatproof bowl, discard solids, then return to the saucier. Whisk in butter-flour mixture, then simmer until sauce begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. If sauce is thin, you can reduce further, or whisk in additional butter-flour mixture. Season with salt and pepper. If it tastes too sharp or acidic, you can whisk in a pinch of sugar to round out the flavor.
Add bacon and vegetable garnishes to the sauce and heat through. Rub toasts with remaining clove of garlic, then set on serving plates. Slide 2 poached eggs onto each toast. Spoon the sauce and garnishes all over, sprinkle with parsley, and serve right away.
If you can't find frozen pearl onions, you can substitute with an equal quantity of diced onion or shallot.
Chicken stock with sufficient gelatin will turn to jelly when refrigerated; if your stock is store-bought, or if it's homemade but remains liquid even when fully chilled, it needs the unflavored gelatin to be added to it.
3-quart saucier, whisk, slotted spoon, fine-mesh strainer
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 28g||36%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||55%|
|Total Carbohydrate 36g||13%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||23%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|