Le Tourin

An olive oil fried egg sits atop the delicious le tourin.

Jason’s exquisite wild yeast bread seems so precious a resource that wasting even a crumb is criminal. Stale bread is a marvel of versatility as an ingredient. Dry crunchy old bread can be transformed quickly into crumbs and used as a coating for pan fried chops, as a topping for gratin or a as thickener of sauces. Large pieces of stale crusty bread are refreshed when tossed with chopped ripe, in-season tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. We toast slices of fresh country bread and set them in the bottom of large soup bowls where they absorb the rich vegetable broth that is Lidia Bastianich’s Acquacotta. Chad Robertson’s Le Tourin recipe makes use of days-old bread as an absorbent sponge in a hearty vegetable soup topped with a creamy yolked fried egg reminiscent of the Acquacotta. In fact, the simple principle of soaking hard old pieces of bread in a richly flavored broth or sauce to create a meal is universal, born of necessity in less prosperous times.

The simple makings for a wonderful soup.

The next time you hesitate to buy the baguette you know you’ll love, or the big round of crusty bread that looks and smells too good to be true, simply because you don’t think you’ll eat it all, remember that the bread you buy today will age into a delicious, nutritious and inexpensive ingredient tomorrow. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, days-old bread and vegetable soup never disappoints. This recipe is a general guide, a statement of technique. You should use whatever veggies you have on hand as well as whatever broth you like. Water works just as well if seasoned properly. Fried eggs are great, but you could also poach eggs in the soup before spooning the broth over the bread.

The drizzle of red wine vinegar over the egg in this dish adds a little zip to an otherwise earthy soup. We used peppery “wild” arugula in place of the kale, but just about any flavorful green will do (beet, chard, collard). I like to flavor the soup with whole sprigs of fresh herbs that are plucked out of the pot just before serving. Fresh thyme is a favorite. In summer, peeled diced fresh tomato would make a perfect addition as would thin strips of fresh basil scattered over the top after plating. If you want to guild the lily, a fine dusting of grated hard cheese adds a lot of rich flavor to the final dish. A final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil never hurts either!

Le Tourin Recipe

(Source: Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson)

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise, cut into 2 inch lengths

1 large yellow onion, cut into half inch wedges

1 bunch kale, stems removed

4-6 cups stock or water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Red wine vinegar

3 slices day-old bread, whole-wheat or country, torn into chunks

Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onion wedges, cut-side down. Reduce heat to medium and cook without stirring until veggies begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Turn to brown the other side and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add greens and broth to the pan, bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Divide pieces of broken bread between two large soup bowls. Spoon veggies over the top of the bread and then ladle broth over the bread. Top with fried or poached egg and drizzle a teaspoon or so of the red wine vinegar over the egg. Dust with freshly grated black pepper and serve.

Eggs Benny

Peppery arugala compliments the mornay sauce and creamy yolks in this version of Eggs Benny.

Weekends are special in our house. Not only do we get to sleep in, usually, we also get to chow on brunch items that are heftier than our usual weekday oatmeal, yogurt, or muesli. We try to keep eggs, bread, milk, cheese, and some meat item on hand for these rich weekend brunches. Lately, we’ve been poaching eggs and serving them with everything from soup to salad to endless variations of Eggs Benedict. In fact, it’s been a while since we’ve had a traditional Eggs Benedict breakfast. The idea of Eggs Benedict may seem a little intimidating but the dish is actually very easy to make and we’ve had great success with it over the years. Making a hollandaise sauce is simple when using our blender. We get that with all the butter and egg yolks the sauce is heavy, even for a large breakfast, so we try to limit our consumption of the sauce to special occasions – mostly.

The typical Eggs Benedict is made with English muffins, Canadian bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The origin of the dish seems to be up for debate. The choices are between a New York stock broker, Lemuel Benedict, a New York banker residing in France, Commodore E.C. Benedict, and a New York couple named Mr. and Mrs. Le Grand Benedict. Food historians seem to agree that the dish was created around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. (source: Wikipedia). Whatever the origin of the Eggs Benedict, it appears that the concoction was inspired by the appetites of wealthy New Yorkers who were bored of their typical breakfast fare.

We’re not wealthy by any means, and while we love New York, we’re San Franciscans who love a good deal. So, for the those bohemians on the west coast who love to eat well, we offer the Eggs Benny, a simpler take on this rich classic. The construction of the dish follows the traditional pattern – bread, meat and/or vegetables, eggs, and sauce, but the ingredients consist of whatever you currently have on hand in your fridge. We prefer a béchamel or mornay sauce with our eggs, meat, and toast. The béchamel is a simple milk, butter, and flour sauce. The mornay sauce is a béchamel with cheese added to it. Steve can whisk up these sauces in just enough time for Jason to toast the bread and poach the eggs. They’re quick and easy.

There are many variations on the traditional Eggs Benedict including Eggs Blackstone, which substitutes ham for the streaky bacon and adds a tomato slice. Eggs Florentine substitutes spinach for the ham. There’s also a Country Benedict, sometimes known as Eggs Beauregard, which replaces the English muffin, ham and hollandaise sauce with a biscuit, sausage patties, and country gravy. The poached eggs are replaced with eggs fried to your liking. There are many other variations of this simple, yet classic, construction. We’ll stick to our own versions of Eggs Benny which for us means having poached eggs, toast of some kind, some sort of meat or sauté of vegetable, and all topped with a creamy sauce – hollandaise, mornay, or béchamel. So, now there is no urgent need to run to the store for English muffins and Canadian bacon. Just use what you have on hand and call it Eggs Benny.

Eggs Benny

Crisp bacon, sauteed chard, and creamy hollandaise sauce in another Eggs Benny brunch.

(serves two)

4 Poached Eggs
4 slices of Toast (your choice)
4 slices meat (cooked bacon, prosciutto, Canadian bacon, crab meat, etc.)
and/or a sauté of leafy green vegetables (chard, kale, spinach, endive, etc.) or fresh greens (arugula, dandelion greens, escarole, etc.)
Hollandaise, mornay, or béchamel (your choice)

For poached eggs: In one sauce pan, boil hot water. In a separate skillet, simmer water. Boil the eggs in the sauce pan, with the shells on for 30 seconds. This will help to keep the whites together when poaching them. Crack each egg into one of four separate ramekins. In the skillet with simmering water, slowly pour the eggs one at a time. Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still soft to the touch.

Alternately, you can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to the skillet water to help keep the egg whites together, but the eggs will take on the vinegar flavor.

Bechamel Sauce

1 ½ cups whole milk
1 Bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Sprig of fresh thyme (optional)

Warm milk, bay leaf and thyme, if using, in a saucepan over low heat.

While milk is warming, create a roux by melting the butter in a separate saucepan over medium heat. When completely melted, add flour and whisk constantly, approximately 2 minutes, being careful not to brown the roux. Take out the bay leaf and thyme from the milk. Pour the hot milk into the roux while continuing to whisk until roux and milk are completely incorporated. Season with salt and white pepper and continue to whisk until sauce begins to thicken.

Mornay Sauce
1 Sauce Béchamel
1 cup grated cheese(s) (cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Gruyère, etc.)

Sauce béchamel becomes sauce mornay when the cheese is added. If you intend to add the cheese, be sure to remove the sauce from heat before whisking in the cheese. Serve hot.

To assemble: place the toast on the plate, then add the meat and/or vegetables. Place the poached eggs on top and then drizzle with the sauce of your choice. Decorate with a pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika. Serve at once.

Note: Leftover béchamel or mornay can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three or four days. Refrigerated, béchamel becomes very thick. Add it to scrambled eggs or sautéed greens for added creaminess. Or, spread it over rustic bread and toast under the broiler for a delicious open-faced croque.