"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mushroom Farrotto with Poached Egg - November 14, 2010

In 2010 in New York City, everyone knows and expects freshly ground black pepper and shredded parmigiano reggiano (even though I suspect half of them would not know the difference between the fresh vs. the stuff in the diminutive white packet or the bright green bottle). Therefore, some patrons would ask for black pepper for their truffle oil drizzled pizza or parmigiano reggiano for the seafood risotto. While black pepper and parmigiano reggiano are both quite delicious, they also act as powerful catalysts to a dish; which many less competent cooks may use to disguise their culinary shortcomings, and many unfortunate chefs may use to unwittingly destroy their otherwise well-prepared dishes. It was exactly for the latter that Tom Colicchio on Top Chef admonished against the use of black pepper.

Where was I? For a mushroom dish that borrows heavily from the delicate aroma of truffle oil (as in wearing rabbit fur instead of ermine), black pepper is a killer. On the other hand, a light sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano would accentuate the dish, but I wanted something rich but mellow, and different. Of course, a few spoonfuls of mascarpone would be perfect, but a quick consultation with my girth confirmed that I had already used up my share of cream for the month. Now the conditions are out, and what is the answer?: Poached egg (the egg is hiding beneath the cheese and portobello). To be precise, I wanted onsen tamago (hot spring eggs), which are made by “boiling” eggs in water at a constant 70-80 degrees Celsius; thus, it was traditionally made in hot springs where the water temperature was constant but below boiling. This method creates eggs where the egg white obtains the texture of gelatin, and the yolk, the glorious yolk becomes a brightly yellow, rich and sticky goo. I have heard that you can make onsen tamago at home, provided that you have patience and persistence; neither virtue was exactly high on my grocery list. Therefore, I went with a three-minute poached egg instead.

I met farro, a belatedly discovered love of mine, at Café Boulud. Ever since, I have opted for this hearty, chewy grain over rice for risotto, or in this case, farrotto. If you have never tried to cook farrotto, then here is a revelation for you: You can stir and not worry about overcooking. If you are using rice, keep your hands tied behind you to fight the temptation against touching, molesting and mutilating it. On the other hand, if you are using farro, you can stir and it will not turn into glue. In addition, even if you overcook it, it will still retain the grainy chewiness, characteristic of farro (by which I am surely not encouraging you to go and stew it). Last tip: Farro needs to be cooked longer than rice by approximately 7 minutes.

Once the farrotto is done, top it off with the poached egg and a few shavings of parmigiano reggiano (aged for at least 12 months; ideally 24 months). When you break into the egg with your spoon, you will realize that every effort was worth it. Once you have licked off the last bit of egg yolk off your plate, you can ponder how ephemeral and evanescent life’s pleasures are.

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