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March 16, 2006

More Brunchy Goodness

Aaaaaaand, the other recipe from the birthday brunch. This one involved conquering a couple of former nemeses... poached eggs and hollandaise. I've always had trouble keeping my poached eggs from turning into egg drop soup. This time around, I finally discovered that dropping them in the water and then leaving them the hell alone was by far the best policy. I also tried the method of shocking them in ice water and later reviving them. I've always been familiar with it, of course, but until recently I'd assumed that it was a corner-cutting measure that would result in a less-than-awesome egg. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that the eggs suffered no ill effects of any kind. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my hollandaise. The last time I made hollandaise, in an unfortunate show of hubris, I tried to do a quadruple batch that broke and caused me to suffer my first Iron Chef loss by hundredths of a point. But I recently stumbled upon the blender method, and I thought I'd give it a shot. Again, I was more than a little skeptical until I discovered that it's endorsed by Julia Child. Who wants to argue hollandaise with Julia? Sadly, as Julia's disclaimer mentions, if you're used to a hand-whisked hollandaise, blender hollandaise is somewhat suboptimal. I'd use it for large batches when necessary, but it isn't a substitute. So for the purposes of the recipe, we'll go with the traditional method.

This one's a little tricky. Not only does it involve poached eggs and a hollandaise-based sauce, but it involves juggling a lot of components, all of which need careful attention, right up until assembly. The poached eggs are easy to do ahead of time, and the choron can be prepared ahead as well. Just be careful about trying to hold the sauce, as it'll break fairly easily. Let it sit at room temperature or, at most, sit the sauce in warm water or near the stove. I suppose you could try preparing the potato pancakes early and then giving them a quick shot in a frypan to reheat and crisp them, but I think the dish would lose something if they weren't coming straight out of sizzling olive oil and butter and right onto the plate. In any case, this dish is a great exercise in timing and pot juggling. If you pull it off, you're definitely in control of your kitchen.

Dominic Armato

4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. white vinegar

2 small shallots, chopped
3-4 black peppercorns, cracked
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 C. tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/4 C. dry white wine
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. cold butter
1/2 C. clarified butter
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 C. coarsely grated russet potatoes
1/4 C. coarsely grated carrot
1/4 C. coarsely grated onion
4 oz. chevre, or similar goat cheese
Salt, to taste
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
12 oz. salmon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 C. diced tomato
Chives, minced
Salmon and Poached Egg with
Crispy Goat Cheese Potato Pancake and Choron Sauce

Serves 4

First, poach the eggs. Fill a large, shallow pot or saucepan with water, add the white vinegar, and bring it juuuuust short of a boil (about 200º). Crack each egg individually into a cup, then gently slide the eggs into the water. Cook for about three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the eggs and set them directly in a large bowl filled with ice water to halt the cooking. Also, take a small pot of lightly salted water and heat it to approximately 130º (for reheating the eggs later).

Next, prepare the potato pancakes. After grating, squeeze the potatoes and carrots in a kitchen towel to get them as dry as possible. Combine the potato and carrot with the grated onion, then season generously with salt and set aside.

Then, preheat the oven to 400º and start on the choron sauce. Combine the peppercorns, fresh tarragon, tarragon vinegar and white wine in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to 2 Tbsp. Strain and combine in a double boiler with the egg yolks. Whisk for 1-2 minutes until the yolks become thick and silky. Drop in one Tbsp. of the cold butter, and whisk until the butter is melted and emulsified with the yolks. Add the second Tbsp. of cold butter and continue whisking until it is melted and emulsified. Begin slowly (SLOWLY!) adding the clarified butter, a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. The butter can be added more rapidly as you progress. If you see even the faintest hint of graininess or lumps in the sauce, remove the pan from the heat and dunk the bottom in ice water, whisking constantly to cool the sauce. Then, return to the heat and continue. If you're feeling brave, you can add an additional 1-2 Tbsp. of butter, but bear in mind that it's more likely to break when it sits. Whisk in the tomato paste, and adjust for salt and acid (with a little fresh lemon juice) if desired. Remove the sauce from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet, combine 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat until the butter is melted and foams. Swirl the oil and butter around the skillet, and drop in four lumps of the potato mixture, 1/4 C. each. Shape the potato mixture into thin, round pancakes and press with a spatula to flatten as much as possible. Crumble the goat cheese over the cakes, then add another 1/4 C. of the potato mixture to the top of each cake and press, sealing the cheese in the center. Continue frying, pressing frequently, until the underside is brown and crisp. Flip the pancakes, and continue cooking to crisp the reverse side.

Meanwhile, prepare the salmon. Slice the salmon into four thick pieces, and season with the paprika, salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over high heat, then add the salmon and sear on one side. Flip the salmon and immediately transfer to the hot oven. Roast for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon, until it reaches the desired doneness

To assemble the dish, drop the poached eggs into the hot water for 3-4 minutes to refresh. Lay one pancake on each plate. Top with a piece of salmon and poached egg, then drizzle with the choron sauce. Garnish with the tomato and chives, and go to town.


Did you see the Good eats about hollandaise? Alton suggests keeping it in a thermos and it will last perfectly for at least a couple of hours. I tried it and had the sauce waiting in the thermos for probably an hour. It turned out really well, and was as fresh as when i put it into the thermos.

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