Chiarello Recreated: Green Eggs and Ham from Bottega

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I've been a little obsessed with Michael Chiarello lately. I think he's a genius and I am beyond in love with his style of food. It's Italian, it's California, it's earthy, it's refined, it's everything all at once but each dish stands out with such individuality that his food doesn't come across as a mishmash. It's beautiful. And insanely flavorful and good.

This appetizer from Bottega which I was so happy to recreate perfectly (if I may add) is a perfect example of that. What at first seems like a typical brunch item -- egg, asparagus, sauce -- is in fact much more refined and technical, and each flavor comes back at you like a prize fighter who won't go down, but the whole manages to retain a certain elegance about. It's like the best sex of your life. And more. Because it involves a crispy poached egg on top.

I love dishes that are everything: crispy, crunchy, soft, velvety, sweet, savory. Just everything all at once turns my Gemini brain on and makes me so giddy with excitement. This is such a dish. The asparagus are quickly blanched in salt water and set atop a bleu cheese cream sauce (WA-POW!) and then topped with a poached egg that's rolled in buttermilk and panko breadcrumbs (BAM!) and then fried until crispy (ZING!) and served on top of the asparagus and sprinkled with fried prosciutto (BALALALANG!) And then you ceremonially bring your fork down upon the egg from high above like they did at the restaurant to expose the gooey soft yolk inside that oozes out like liquid gold onto the crispy and crunchy bits and then mixes into the bleu cheese heaven. It's a magic carpet ride into culinary orgasm.

It's a Hell Yes.

It's an OMG.

It's...Michael Chiarello!

And the best part? It was actually shockingly not that hard. I remember sitting there at the restaurant this time last year just stupified as to how he fried an egg like this and the middle was still soft and gooey and wonderful. And this was one of my most favorite dishes in my entire life, and I had to recreate it. I needed it like an addict to his crack. And so I did. And now, you can too.

Green Eggs and Ham
For the prosciutto bits:
1.5 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. prosciutto, finely diced (about 1 cup)

For the sauce:
8 ounces Cambozola cheese
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp finely minced fresh thyme

For the asparagus:
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt

For the crispy eggs:
6 large eggs
peanut, corn, or canola oil for frying
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
fleur de sel for garnish

Make the prosciutto bits first:
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring occasionally, until prosciutto is crispy about 10-15 minutes. Remove prosicutto with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain the oil off.

Make the sauce:
Cut off the cheese rhind and cut the cheese into chunks to help it melt easier. Add the cheese, cream and thyme to a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until melted through. Use a whisk to help you smooth out the cheese lumps and get it to melt evenly. You can strain the mixture to remove the "veins" if you like, then return the sauce back to the saucepan. Take off heat, cover to keep warm.

Prepare the asparagus:
Combine the olive oil, water, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook 3-4 minutes until tender but still crisp; they will continue cooking when you remove them from the heat. Remove and let cool.

Prepare the eggs:
Make an ice bath large enough to hold all the eggs -- combine about a cup of ice cubes and water into a bowl and set aside. Place the flour, buttermilk, and panko into 3 separate bowls or shallow dishes for the breading. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Then using a strainer or basket, slowly lower the eggs into the water and boil for exactly 4 minutes (5 if using extra large brown eggs). Time this. Once the 4 minutes is up, remove the eggs and transfer to the ice bath immediately. Let cool at least 20 minutes. Once cooled, carefully peel the eggs. It's best if you gently crack them all over to make the shell removal easier.

At this point you're ready to fry your eggs and put together your whole dish. Make sure you prosciutto is fried and done; your sauce is warming up now gently over very low heat and covered; your asparagus is drained and room temperature; your eggs are poached, chilled, and peeled.

Place enough oil in a pot to come up about 3 inches along the sides -- it's important to have enough oil so the eggs can fry quickly and evenly; if there's not enough oil they'll sink and lose shape and not cook evenly. When the oil reaches about 350 degrees, you're ready to fry.

To prepare the eggs for frying, take one egg and roll it in the flour until it's completely covered. Then roll it in the buttermilk until covered, then in the panko until totally coated. Then straight into the oil. I found it best to fully bread 3 eggs at a time, then transfer them into the oil all at once, then while those fry up do the rest of the eggs in the breadcrumbs. Fry the eggs for 60-90 seconds, then remove immediately so they don't overcook! Finish frying the last 3 eggs.

To assemble the plate, spoon out a little sauce in the middle of a plate. Top with the asparagus in one layer. Top the asparagus with a fried egg, then sprinkle the prosiutto bits around the plate but concentrating around the asparagus and egg. Top the egg with a small sprinkling of fleur de sel. I also added a little freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: This would be perfect with a mimosa for a spruced up breakfast or brunch, fit for entertaining. Or a wonderful appetizer for dinner.

1 comment:

Lisa Ruminski said...

That looks like it is well worth the trouble! What an egg!