A RICH, OLD-FASHIONED WINTER BISTRO DISH FROM BURGUNDY--LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN!
About twenty years ago on a French wine importer tour, while visiting the town of Chablis in the northernmost wine region of Burgundy, I and my traveling companions were invited to what was billed as a ”traditional Burgundian dinner” by our hosts, Chablis vigneron Hervé Azo and his wife. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but if memory serves, it was an old, low-ceilinged place with dark timbers all around.
As I looked at the menu, I saw a dish I didn't recognize—Oeufs en Meurette--and asked our hosts what it was.
“It’s from Burgundy, very traditional. Eggs poached in red wine sauce served on a toasted pain brioche,” Azo explained.
I had to try it--I thought it might be a good appetizer for the whitefish in beurre blanc I was considering as my main course.
When the dish came out, it was much, much more substantial than I thought, really a main course in itself. The sauce was made from veal and beef stock, red wine, lardons (bacon) and mushrooms reduced to a gravy-like consistency ladled over poached eggs on a toasted brioche. As I broke the yolks and they ran into the sauce, I had one of the great flavor moments of my life. Think boeuf bourguignon without the boeuf.
And it was made even better washed down with a perfectly chilled glass of Azo Petit Chablis.
When I got home to Long Beach, I found the recipe in Saveur Cooks Authentic French and had Dale make it for us. Perfection! It had all the same magic and richness as the version served in the old restaurant in Chablis.
A few years later, Dale and I found ourselves in Brasserie Buré on Place Republique in Tours for lunch. We had gone there for the shellfish platter, but my eyes fixated on Oeufs-en-Meurette, which I ordered along with a bottle of Chablis. Lightning struck twice. That night at dinner in a manor house outside Auxerre, the menu of the restaurant also offered Oeufs-en-Meurette d’Irancy, the same dish poached in red wine, but they used a minerally Pinot Noir from the nearby wine village of Irancy, not far from Chablis and Saint-Bris. Two servings of the same dish in the same day! Who, besides me, does that sort of thing?
This time I ordered an Irancy red with my egg dish, and it was also nice. I suppose the minerality of the ancient seashell terroir in northern Burgundy made an excellent foil for the dish, whether the wine was red or white.
Dale hasn’t cooked Oeufs-en-Meurette for years (“It’s a winter dish,” she says.), but I’m trying to get her to do it again, especially now in winter. When she does, I’ll serve Azo Petit Chablis in one glass and a red wine from northern Burgundy, like the Goisot Bourgogne Côte d’Auxerre rouge La Ronce. It’s more expensive than a typical poaching wine, but this is no typical dish.
(Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce) from Saveur Cooks Authentic French
White: Azo Petit Chablis $20.99
Red: Goissot Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre La Ronce $38.99
4 tbsp. butter, softened
¼ lb. slab bacon, coarsely chopped
½ lb. small white mushrooms, sliced
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
5 ¼ cups French red burgundy or other dry red wine
1 cup demi-glace
1 ¾ cups beef stock
2 tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bread, preferably pain brioche, lightly toasted, crusts removed
4 sprigs fresh chervil
- Melt 1 tbsp. of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp, 7-10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, drain on a paper towel, and set aside. Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet, melt 1 tbsp. of the butter, shallots, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in carrots, thyme, and bay leaf and cook until carrots begin to brown, about 7 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium-high, add 2 cups wine, and cook until reduced by three quarters, about 25 minutes. Add demi-glace and stock and cook, skimming frequently, for 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and strain sauce through a fine sieve into a small saucepan. Combine flour and remaining 2 tbsp. butter in a small bowl, forming a paste. Whisk paste into sauce a little at a time, then simmer over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and keep sauce warm.
- Place remaining 3 ¼ cups wine in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Poach eggs two at a time by cracking each egg into a saucer, then carefully slipping into wine. Poach until whites are firm and yolks just set, 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a plate and cover with foil. Repeat process with remaining eggs.
- Add reserved bacon and mushrooms to sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide bread between 4 plates, place one or two eggs on each piece, spoon sauce over them, and serve garnished with chervil.