Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bacon & Eggs: Soft Poached Quail Eggs with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

All I needed was to read the word "bacon" to know that I was going to >heart< this in a big way. And, in the French Laundry Cookbook, Keller relates a story about a man who had this in the restaurant and commented that he "could eat ten more." So, they made ten more for him.

I'd never worked with quail eggs before and had some difficulty finding fresh ones. We have a plethora of Asian markets here in the DC area, but only a few of them have reliable meat/egg/seafood selections. So, because I don't think I'd enjoy salmonella, I had to wait until some fresh quail eggs were delivered to one of the stores I trust -- Han Ah Reum, also now known as H-Mart. If you've shopped in Asian grocery stores before, you know the selection can be hit or miss. But, when you get there on a good day and can find everything, the joy is doubled because everything is so cheap cheap cheap! These quail eggs were half the price as a premium/gourmet market, not to mention the selection of herbs and produce. Amazing, and so inexpensive... and you know what? The quality and taste is comparable to some of the organic markets around here. So, there's a little tip from me to you. If you have an Asian market in your neck of the woods, check it out. But as always, buyer beware on meats, seafood and eggs. We now return you to your regular programming...

The Bacon and Eggs dish was so easy to do, and a delight to eat. The recipe makes 6 servings so I doubled it, knowing my friends and I would want seconds. It was the right decision. I could've eaten thirds and fourths and been a happy camper. Let's look at the mise en place:

The first thing I did was poach the quail eggs. Here they are before undergoing my mad serrated knife skillz:

I took each one, laid it on its side, and gently sliced into it (on the wider end) to crack the shell enough to be able to open it up and have it all slide out when I was ready to poach it. I was very proud of myself because I didn't break or lose one egg in this whole process. That's never happened before. Usually when I poach regular-size eggs, I break one or don't poach it long enough and the yolk runs all over the place because the white wasn't strong enough. Not this time. I clearly rock. Tell your friends.

Here's a shot of the poached quail eggs chilling in an ice bath:

They look like boconccini, don't they?

The next step was to prepare the brunoise with the leek, turnip and carrot. I didn't photograph this step, because it's already captured here.

Next step was the bacon. MMmmmmmmmm, bacon. If there were a Bacon Fan Club, I would be the president. And the vice president. And the treasurer. And the entire board of directors. That, my friends, is how much I love bacon. After reading a few articles on humanely raised pork and talking to other food-loving friends and colleagues about it, I'm starting to explore the more humane ways of raising pigs so that I can make better bacon choices, and I look forward to tasting the differences among different farms in this area. Here's a shot of the lovely applewood-smoked bacon that I brought home and indeed was fryin' up in a pan:

Now that all the elements were done, it was time to complete the dish and plate it. I mean spoon it, since it's meant to be served on a spoon for bite-size serving. I melted some butter (I didn't make the beurre monté, sue me), tossed in a dash of water, and warmed the eggs in that. Once they had been in for a minute, I added the brunoise along with a pinch of salt and pepper. I let that warm up for another minute or two and then assembled each serving on an individual spoon: one egg, sauce/brunoise, and bacon. Here's a shot of the finished product:

Photos like this make me love my dining room so much... the way the light comes in at certain points in the afternoon is just lovely.

This dish was so easy to do, so if you're looking for a recipe to kick off your own journey into Keller-land, I'd suggest this one. As usual, I served the neighbors this dish and everyone thought it was a hit. I had a wee bit of bacon leftover, so I split it with the dog. He thanked me by scarfing down his pieces of bacon in 0.000000000000002 seconds and growling at me to give him more. Ungrateful little fartknocker.

Up Next: Carpaccio of Yellowfin Tuna Niçoise

Brands Used:
Quail eggs and produce from H Mart
Wellshire Farms applewood-smoked maple bacon
365 unsalted butter
34 Degrees sauvignon blanc vinegar for poaching process
All-Clad cookware
Calphalon non-stick frying pan

Music to Cook By: Squeeze; Singles-45s and Under. One of my favorite albums of all time. Because I am old.


Jo said...

God that looks so good. I just went to my brand new H mart out here, and was checking out the quail eggs. I love Keller's cookbook, and spend many a lazy sunday with coffee cup and bagel nearby re-reading my favorite recipes.

Anonymous said...

That last photo is absolutely beautiful. You have such a good eye. And probably other parts.

Anonymous said...

This is such a great blog, I've enjoyed following along.

Looking at your bowlful of perfect little poached eggs, I'd love to hear any and all poaching tips (I've tried so many methods and they invariably come out a stringy mess...)

Anonymous said...

Very nice, I'm impressed as usual. Thanks to you, my copy of the Complete Keller is now mocking me on a weekely basis.

Like Abby said, those were some nicely poached eggs. Did you use the "stir the water drop the egg in the center" method? My whites always wind up too delicate.

Did you notice much difference in cooking quail eggs rather than the standard chicken variety (density/viscosity,etc)? I've never cooked quail eggs before, personally.

Now, I see that Squeeze album is your favorite, but it may be time to update the ol' CD collection. Gotta stay hip if you want the kids to make you an internet celebrity. I kid, I kid. OK, I mostly kid. You get bonuses for the Suddenly Tammy!

And wow. Way to be creepy there, anonymous.

Kitt said...

Oh yummy. In China I used to get quail eggs on a stick (five to a stick) from a street vendor; they were cooked in soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I thought that was decadent, but this ...

Carol Blymire said...

Jo: It was really good. But when can bacon ever be bad?

Abby: I don't have a ton of advice on poaching other than to use a little more vinegar than a recipe calls for, and use a deep stockpot filled with water so that the egg yolk has further to fall and thus become enveloped by the white as it falls and then comes back up to the top.

Corycm: Yay -- you bought the book. Now use it. NOW! I did not stir the water and drop the egg. I'm not that coordinated. I just waited for it to come up to a gentle simmer, added the vinegar, then dropped in six eggs, one after the other, and they pretty much poached themselves. I think quail eggs are easier to poach, personally. I don't have the best luck poaching chicken eggs. Oh, and I know who "anonymous" was. He just didn't want others to know who he was. :) And, I listen to hip music... just not always when I'm cooking. :P

Kitt: quail eggs on a stick sound awesome. Having grown up near a county fair where all food is served on a stick, I'm always looking for new stick-foods to try.

Kitt said...

I found a photo of me with those Chinese quail eggs and put it on my blog ( Might be something you can try making at home.

You should throw an "everything on a stick" party!