Sunday, June 04, 2006


Madeleine # 5: Baby Coq au Vin

Blood, Sweat & Tears... Well, almost. Anyway: I DID IT!!!I DID IT!!!I DID IT!!!I DID IT!!! Yes, 4 times, since I managed to poach 4 eggs! I simply couldn't believe it. You want proof? Here you go:

But let's go back to the beginning, where I asked Baronne to ask her mum to supply the recipe for this finger-lickingly scrumptious recipe: Oeufs en Meurette. I have always called it a Baby Coq au Vin, since it is essentially a red wine sauce with bacon pieces. OK, no mushrooms, but I'm not a stickler for details, as you might have realised by now. And the Baby part? Well, an egg is a form of VERY young rooster, isn't it? Or could have been.

Baronne & her mum gladly obliged, and since Tuesday I had been looking (and salivating) at the recipe, as well as dreading the whole egg poaching thing (as you might have realised by now). So Saturday morning came, and the moment of truth. First things first, we were off to buy great eggs. For once, we chose to forego our beloved Borough Market and opted instead for a walk in the nice weather to Marylebone High St and its fabulous Ginger Pig, where we also got some yummy smoked bacon for this Madeleine (and some garlic Toulouse sausages which are on the menu for tonight...)

150g smoked bacon (lardons)

1 chopped onion or large shallot

0,5 l good red wine ("the better the wine, the better the sauce")

1 bouquet garni (thyme from windowsill, bay leaves from Parents, parsley, tied together with string) - I did not have any string, so just threw it in

3 chopped garlic cloves (only 1 if using shallot) - I had no idea there was a shallot/garlic ratio

1 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter

2 eggs per person

Optional: a large slice of toasted country bread per person

Gently fry the lardons with 1 tbsp butter until golden brown, then keep to one side. In the same pan, fry the onion in the bacon fat / butter until soft, then add the wine, 1 glass of water, the bouquet garni and the garlic. Leave it to simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered

Meanwhile, boil water with 2 tbsp vinegar. When the water boils, add the raw egg. This is where I tried all my previous 'tricks' and it seemed to work (hence the whisk on the photo). Break the egg into a glass, to make it easier to pour into the water. Once the water boils, use the whisk to create a whirlpool in the middle, which will help to coat the yolk in egg white, helping it along
with a spoon.
Pour the egg in. Leave to boil for 2-3 minutes depending on how runny you like the yolk, take it out with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a dish lined with kitchen towel, to absorb the excess water. Cover with a bowl until ready to serve. Repeat as necessary.

Once the eggs are poached (I make it sound so easy, hihi), strain the sauce and pour back into the pan with the fried lardons. Then add the beurre manié (at this point, I had to ask google for help, since I didn't know my roux from my beurre manié - yes, that's also the English term for it). Bring gently to the boil, while stirring so the sauce thickens. Toast the bread, if necessary. Et
voilà: bon appétit!

And there they were. No, not the eggs. The memories, and my two silly teenage friends, Baronne & Loreal. We were 'Best Friends in the Whole Wide World' for one year, when we all lived in Nouakchott, at the tender ages of 15-16. Joined at the hip and terribly giggly, if I remember correctly. Giving each other silly nick-names, of which only "Baronne" seems to still stick. Always at one or the other's house, depending on 1) whether the parents were home and 2) if they were, then what was for dinner.

At Loreal's house, we would raid the cheese cupboard (in Mauritania, that's the equivalent of gold nuggets), at mine I can't remember what our preference was (can you enlighten me, girls?) and at Baronne's it was her mum's Oeufs en Meurette. A revelation to me and to Loreal, I believe, since we still wax lyrical about them today. We would spend hours, even days, chatting, listening to music and chatting some more. About boys, mainly, as is wont at that age... But also about our theatre debut, where we put on Moliere's 'Les Precieuses Ridicules' or Alfred de Musset's 'Une Nuit de Mai', where Loreal would recite and I would mime a wounded pelican behind her. Not my finest hour, I assure you... I remember our instructor telling her to be more like Sarah Bernhard... at 16! Once a week, we would go to the only entertainment available, a documentary at the French Cultural Institute, which was opposite Baronne's house. At the weekend, we would go to the deserted beach (or Desert Beach), since only a large sand dune separated the Sahara desert from the beach.

There were no mobiles, no texts, no PS2, no shopping, no clubbing, no iPods, no DVDs (we did have out-of-date French Top of the Pops, though...), no nail bars or hair designers (no sun screen either...), or whatever teenagers seem to be unable to live without today (do I sound like a Grumpy Old Lady yet?). And yet, we were happy as can be.

And then we lost touch, as often happens when you move to other countries, and you have new concerns (such as exams & studies) and new friends. Boyfriends. Suddenly, 15 years had gone by, and we did not know what had become of the others. We must have been longing for contact (or having an early mid-life crisis, like all other 30-something people), seeing as we all registered on Copains d'Avant (French Friends Re-United). And suddenly, there they were. One was married for the 2nd time with 3 kids, the other has a Partner and 2 kids. WOW! How can all that have happened while my back was turned? So for the past 6 months, we have been busy catching up via email, IM and blogs. And we are planning a reunion in the fall. In London, without husbands or kids. Bring on the giggles!

But this Madeleine does not end here. I had told my mum so much about this dish, that several years later, she finally indulged me. And although she is an amazing cook, her first foray into the world of Meurettes, ended in a GREEN disaster. To this day, we have no idea how that happened, but the 10 people who were the dinner guests that evening had some very funny faces on! It would be many years before any of us ventured as far as making this dish again. Years later I would be reminded of this, while watching Bridget Jones cook Blue Soup...

When I met Husband (who was Boyfriend, back then), and realised he had never been to France and was blissfully ignorant of its traditional culinary delights, I made it my mission to order it for him the 1st time we were in Paris together, in a little restaurant near St Sulpice. He was converted!

So the proof of the pudding, as they say here in Britain, lay in whether my Baby Coq au Vin passed the Husband test. What do you think?

Wonderful Madeleine !!!
Hormis tes oeufs au vin, qui semblent à la hauteur de mes souvenirs, je voulais te dire... je suis très heureuse de t'avoir retrouvée.
BRAVO !!!!
Ils ont l'air aussi bons que ceux de maman !

N'empêche, qu'est ce qu'on pouvait se marrer toutes les trois !!!....

Just a quick tip, I've always found it easier to poach eggs in a frypan, (or any shallow wide pan which is deep enough to cover the egg with water) and to lower the heat to a simmer, when you out the egg in, to get the preferred texture of the egg...i.e. for me, cooked but runny, and not hard!

(P.S. I found this through Chocolate and Zucchini)
Loreal -> moi zaussi j'en suis heureuse. Et merci pour tonnaide hier...

Baronne -> ca c'est un compliment qui vaut son pesant d'or! Tu feras un bizou de ma parta Zemama la prochaine fois que tu la verras

Gisele -> thanks for the tip! I'll definitely try it next time. Or maybe this Sunday for brunch? And thank you for being my first non-'Friend & Family' commentator. I appreciate it :-)
hey! salut depuis l'autre coté de la manche, j'en apprend des choses sur le trio infernal baronne, asmo et loréal...trop crevée ce soir pour continuer à lire en anglais
i'll be back soon!
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