Poached Egg Bruschetta w Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a weekend brunch favorite in the Lowe + Helzer household and it has guided my education in the art of the poach. At long last, revealed below is my technique for the perfect poach. The recipe is adapted from Alice Waters’ In The Green Kitchen. The primary difference is that in her version the vinaigrette involves macerated tomatoes and halved garlic cloves which are removed before serving. I do that sometimes when tomatoes are in season. But on a normal basis, even if my kitchen is low on everything, I’ve got the makings for this brunch poach. And it’s super tasty.

Vinaigrette:
If you’ve ever had dinner at our place, you’ve had a variation on this dressing recipe. It’s the Lowe + Helzer House Vinaigrette and we literally make it every night. I love it. You can use more or less vinegar, just depends how strong your vinegars are and how you like it. I do 1:1 ratio olive oil to vinegar; Paul does more of a 2:1 ratio. I am a fan of using multiple vinegars, some combos work better than others. You can use different vinegars, balsamic and red wine vinegar go well together if you like it a little sweeter. Rice vinegar is really nice on its own – that’s the Schwartz version I grew up with. Oh I should also add that in the Helzer household, salad dressing is made in the bottom of the salad bowl, then after the lettuce is washed, it goes into the bowl on top of the dressing and then it is fatigue‘d so the dressing coats the salad. Is that too much detail?

Mix together:
1/4 – 1/2 minced shallot
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

Poach Method:
I’m not sure there is one magic bullet technique, but here’s what I’ve found works for me – fresh fresh fresh eggs are best. We have the pleasure of purchasing our eggs most often from the local farm, Gospel Flat, so they are crazy fresh. Another important variable, regardless of freshness, is temperature. Because the temperature tends to be cool here in Bolinas, and because we spent time in France and were enchanted by the way folks do it there, we leave our eggs out of the fridge, so they are always at room temp. If you keep them in the fridge, it’ll help to take them out an hour before you’re going to poach.  I’ve experimented with the tornado technique – the theory being that it helps the egg hold together – but I find that truly fresh eggs hold together naturally, so there’s no real need for the spin cycle.

Boil enough water to cover an egg, shell and all, say 2-3 inches.
Add a dash of salt to the water as well as a dash of vinegar. Red wine or sherry vinegars work great. I use the less expensive stuff for this.
Now take a small strainer, like a tea strainer and crack your egg into it. You’ll notice the sack and then there’s some extra bits of the white, those will drip through, giving you fewer flyaways in your poach. Let it strain for minute but don’t let it sit for too long, otherwise, it’ll get a bit stuck.
You want your water to be just below boiling, where it’s sort of got a wave of heat movement but it’s not bubbling.
Drop your egg into the water. It’ll just drop to the bottom and sit.
Once it’s got a bit of white to it, I usually give it a little nudge so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. A gentle tornado around the egg works here so that you don’t break the white sack or the yolk. It’s fragile!
Use a slotted spoon to check it every so often. You can tell if the white looks like it’s too runny inside. You want the white to be soft but not liquid-y. And the yolk to be super soft. Give it a soft touch and you’ll know when it’s done.

Poached Egg Bruschetta w Shallot Vinaigrette:
Toast up some good bread – a nice baguette or a slice of a wonderful country loaf. (Locally, we are big fans of Brickmaiden, made in Pt. Reyes.)
Pour a few spoons of vinaigrette over the bread
Place your poached eggs atop
Season with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel and Pepper, another splash of vinaigrette if you’d like
Garnish with a sprig of greens or parsley
It’s really nice served with a small green salad too. Enjoy!

Wild Chanterelle Bruschetta

The story of Foraging with Fialkoff

Georgia and Donna are two peas in a pod. They are saucy and strong, petite and powerful, serious and silly. In July, we spent a beautiful day gathering chanterelle mushrooms in northern Vermont. Donna has been foraging for mushrooms for 15 years and like most foragers, she is secretive about her spots. These are the locations to which she returns annually to harvest her coveted wild fungus, including chanterelles, morels, boletes, and her favorite, hen of the woods, or the maitake. Donna blind-folded us and took us to some secret locations and made us swear never to tell! Just kidding about the blind-folds, but these are some serious secret spots. Not only was it a new experience for Georgia, who had never foraged with her mom before, but it was a new experience for me. Georgia (and I) learned a lot. Maybe I was naive, but I always thought mushrooms need to be cooked in a lot of oil because they are so absorbent. I never realized that if you saute them in a little bit of butter and/or oil, water will cook out of them, concentrating their flavor. Wild mushrooms have a very subtle flavor and lend themselves to dishes in which they can be featured. Donna (and Georgia, when she is visiting from Brooklyn) prepares her mushrooms differently every time, but suggests cooking them with bland staples like pasta, toast, rice or eggs. Don’t use too many flavorful herbs, because they can be overpowering. I now know that throwing a load of mushrooms, especially ones you spent all day harvesting from the woods, into a tomato sauce is criminal. The mushrooms will absorb the tomato flavor and the flavors of the mushrooms, themselves, will be overwhelmed. This is precisely why Wild Chanterelle Bruschetta is phenomenal. You could use same preparation on pasta. And since chanterelles can be expensive (I’ve seen them for $50/lb in the store), you might consider trying this out with shittakes. Also, I want to share a few other things I learned that I think are really useful:

How to clean mushrooms: some people say not to wash mushrooms. Washing them in water can make some mushrooms gooey and gross. It can also dilute the subtle flavors. It is best to remove dirt with a knife or blow it off with a turkey baster.

How to store mushrooms: In a paper bag in the fridge. Stored in a plastic bag with no air, they will sweat and go bad much more quickly.

Eating raw mushrooms: Mushrooms need to be cooked in order for our bodies to absorb the good nutritional value they have to offer. Raw, they really have no nutritional value and can be tough to digest.

Poisonous mushrooms: Donna mentions one beautiful white mushroom called the Angel of Death, which is poisonous and can kill. Because this one is so dangerous, she tends to avoid all white mushrooms. In fact, if she has any question about a mushroom, she avoids it. Even if they aren’t deadly, some mushrooms can cause fairly severe gastrointestinal problems. Some even react poorly with alcohol. Educate yourself before you go off and start eating all kinds of unidentified wild mushrooms in the woods! In other words, do not try this at home.

On the other hand, definitely try THIS at home:


Thank you, Donna & Georgia. It was so much fun. Thanks Trokon Nagbe and Topiary Productions for your audio equipment. Thank you for your musical suggestions, Sintalentos. Thanks for helping out, Yashua & Chitra!

Music credits: The Next Time Around by Little Joy; Straw Man by Les Blanks; The Dolls’ Tea Party by The Magnetic Fields; Road by Nick Drake; Sing my Lord by Ponies In The Surf; Everybody’s Missing the Sun covered by Ladybug Transistor