Je Suis Matinale/Je Vis La Nuit

July 26, 2010

How do you like your eggs in the morning?…I like mine with a kiss.
~Dean Martin

I have ever been a morning person. Admittedly, being pert, even ebullient, alertness at daybreak has not always endeared me to bedmates. Yet, somehow with all that solitary sunrise time on my hands, I don’t dine in the morning. Coffee and laptop newspapers are the staples. Not until lunch rolls around do my buds tend to rouse. Despite my dawn start, in the evening I often paradoxically morph into a night owl. Self imposed sleep deprivation, sometimes with a positive bend and occasionally pernicious.   Sort of a lark & owl dyadic discordance, but I tend to play both roles — perhaps to my chagrin though.

The first meal of the day, the English word “breakfast” is a verbal fusion of break + fast. A meal that ends the nightly fast. The benefits of breakfast have been ever heralded by nutritionists. For a warped example, Michael Phelps begins his 12,000 calorie daily quest with three fried egg sandwiches laden with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. He follows that elfin opener with two hefty cups of coffee, a five egg omelet, an ample bowl of grits, and three slices of French toast dusted with powdered sugar. Not to be forgotten is the finish of three large chocolate chip pancakes. One nut up, carbo loaded meal to start a day…that is, if you are a finely honed athlete who ritualistically spends his days performing route compulsion in a pool.

Now, transport your mind across the pond for something more to my morning liking. Le petit déjeuner, translated as “small lunch,” is a light, unhurried affair eaten while seated — not walking, standing, commuting or driving. For the français moyen, breakfast consists of sliced fresh artisanal bread, such as a baguette, with butter and honey or jam* (aka une tartine), and occasionally a croissant or pain au chocolat. Add a cup or two of espresso, dark coffee or black tea, perhaps a small cup of yogurt or fruit and, of course, that everloving sweet kiss. Unlike in the states, hams, eggs, omelets and other savories are reserved for lunch or dinner. So, if you desire a bulky meal or cornucopian brunch to start your day, you’d best head toward Calais and board the Chunnel.

So, suffice it to say, these blissful bottoms have a lunch or dinner post time.

ARTICHOKE HEARTS WITH DUXELLES, POACHED EGGS & BEARNAISE

Artichoke Hearts
2 fresh lemons, halved
4 artichokes
3 T extra virgin olive oil

4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1/3 C chicken broth
1/2 t sea salt
Freshly ground black or white pepper

Fill a large bowl about two thirds of the way with cold water. Squeeze the juice of the halved lemons into the water to acidify. Working with one artichoke at a time, cut the stem off the base of the artichoke. Then, peel back and snap off the first 1 or 2 layers of leaves. Cut off the top third of the artichoke. Starting at the base, peel back and snap off the tough outer leaves until you reach the pale green inner leaves.
Cut off the uppermost part again, and trim around the base to make a smooth surface. The choke will be removed after cooking. When done with each, drop into the lemon water. When completed, drain and pat dry.

In a heavy, large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the smashed garlic cloves and saute until lightly golden. Discard the garlic. Then add the artichokes and sauté until just lightly golden. Increase the heat to high, add the lemon juice and deglaze the pan. Add the broth, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Shortly before using them, scoop out the choke with a spoon, so a smooth, curved cup is formed.

Duxelles
5 C mushrooms, cleaned and finely minced
1-2 small shallots, peeled and finely minced
3 T unsalted butter

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large sauté pan over a moderate heat, melt the butter and add the shallots. Sweat the shallots for about 5 minutes in the butter until soft and tender.

Add the finely minced mushrooms, a pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook over moderate heat until the mushrooms throw off their liquid and then reabsorb it, leaving no liquid in the pan. It may be necessary to add additional butter, and care must be taken that they do not get crisp. They must remain soft. This process can take up to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

When done the mushrooms will resemble a dark brown, mealy, almost paste-like texture. The quantity will also have been reduced by about half.

Bearnaise
1/4 C white wine vinegar
1/4 C dry white wine
1 T minced shallots
1 t dried tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

3 large egg yolks
8-10 T unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon

In a medium heavy saucepan combine wine vinegar, wine, shallots, and dried tarragon and simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Cool and strain through a fine sieve.

In an ovenproof bowl whisk the egg yolks until they become thick and sticky. Whisk in the reduced vinegar mixture, salt and pepper. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk until mixture is warm, about 2 minutes. The yolk mixture should be thickened enough so you can see the bottom of the pan between strokes.

While whisking the yolk mixture gradually pour in the melted butter, a tablespoon or so at a time whisking thoroughly to incorporate before adding more butter. As the mixture begins to thicken and become creamy, the butter can be added more rapidly.

Season to taste with chopped tarragon, salt and pepper. To keep the sauce warm, set the bowl over lukewarm water.

Poached Eggs
4 large fresh eggs
1 T white wine vinegar

Fill a large, heavy skillet deep enough to cover the eggs with water. Bring to a simmer, and add the white wine vinegar. Crack each egg into a shallow bowl or saucer to assure they are not broken. Then, using a slotted spoon, spin the boiling water into a sort of vortex. Once the water is spinning rapidly, gently drop the egg from the bowl in the center of the whirlpool, where it will spin around and coat the yolk in a ball of egg white. Cook until the eggs are barely set, about 3 minutes. Remove the eggs, draining well with a slotted spoon and dab the bottom with paper towels to dry.

Assembly
Place two artichoke hearts on each plate. Top with a heaping spoonful of duxelles, and place the poached egg or eggs on top (depending on the size of the hearts). Then, drizzle bearnaise over the duxelles, hearts and eggs. Sprinkle freshly chopped tarragon on top to finish.

*Pourboire: speaking of jam (confiture), I cannot resist mentioning mi figue, mi raisin—literally “half fig, half grape” or figuratively “between unpleasant and pleasant.” The combination of these two fruits is not trivial. In France, the fig historically had negative connotations because of their resemblance to animal droppings, while grapes have always been revered. So, the phrase reflects an ambiguous situation or person…being in two different worlds or places, or hovering between two antithetic expressions. A mixed bag. If you find a local source for this luscious mi figue, mi raisin jam, glom on to a jar. It is available online as well. (I have my source).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: