23 May 2009

Egg. Salad.

Not egg salad. But salad. With eggs as the centerpiece.

Thanks to the whole dealie with frying my finger, literally, last week, I've been shying away from any heavy-duty cooking. First off because I'm now terrified by the sound of searing flesh. Secondly because almost any wet kitchen activity - from cleaning fish to doing the dishes - would require re-dressing my finger over and over again.

While Paris is a fantastic place to eat out, though, it can get old... Not to mention expensive. And with all the awesome ingredients available, it's maddening not to be able to cook. The solution? Cold dishes. Or those with easy, minimal cooking/prep. Or salade composée, as they like to say here.

Wanna Root?

Root vegetables may be more of an autumn thing in most people's minds, but French markets – like those in most places – are stocked with beets, carrots, and potatoes year round. The colors, though, are varied enough to shout "SPRING!" And chives seem to be on market shelves and fancy menus in amounts unseen since the Sour Cream n' Chives mania of the 1980s. Non-veg components include a gently poached egg and a walnut oil and strawberry syrup vinaigrette.

Egg on Egg on Egg Action

This one's pretty simple... Lumpfish caviar over diced egg whites on toasted baguettes with butter. We decided separating the yolk out and turning it into decor was the best way to go – not only for aesthetics, but to have the option of picking off some yolk to put on top of the canapé: Some folks find the yolk to compete too much with the caviar. This being cheap lumpfish, it's not a big deal either way... Oh, and look, somehow some chives snuck in. (Gotta use up the giant bunch from the market somehow!)

Brown Town
Salade de lentilles et son oeuf poché (er, lentil salad with poached egg) is a lunchtime staple around town, especially at the new upmarket "fast food" joints that try to push healthy meals (i.e. small portions) at non-fine-dining prices (i.e. cheaping out by serving mostly cold dishes). This is actually fine, because as is often the case with French cuisine, the simpler the better. And sometimes, we do actually crave something this stupidly simple.

I figured any moron could make a lentil salad, but I decided to look at recipes for inspiration anyway. Among the first I stumbled upon seemed one of the simplest, and by virtue of it being by Alice Waters, it must be among the best. I got as far as her first ingredient – she recommends French green lentils, and those happen to be the cheapest and most plentiful around these parts – and scanned over to the onion-type component and saw shallots. At that point, I nodded and threw the rest out the door. A new inspiration struck me.

The Persian dish addassi is a lentil dish that somewhat resembles Mexican refried beans in consistency. It's often eaten as a belly-warming breakfast with a pat of butter and nana-dagh, which is essentially fried mint. And you know, nothing goes better with lentils than melted butter. (Alannah agrees, and pleasing the wife comes first and foremost.)

Taking inspiration from that, I scrapped Ms. Waters' recipe (which I'm sure is fantastic) and started making an addassi-style salad.

The cooked lentils were combined with some chopped scallions (whites only) softened in butter. They were then stirred with a dressing based on melted butter, a bit of olive oil, cumin, pepper, and dried mint that I'd ground down into a fine powder with a pestel and mortar. While all that chilled, it was on to poaching the eggs and slicing up – you guessed it – chives to finish.

It's all criminally simple, and above all, mouthgasmically good.

It also keeps quite well, so you can make a huge batch, throw it into a Weck jar (or other fancy-pants brand of canning jar) and take it to work for lunch, where all your coworkers will think you scored a promotion and are now getting your take-out from Fauchon/Neiman-Marcus/Harrod's/(enter-your-local-overpriced-food-hall-here).

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