Soft-boiled Egg with Chives and Sherry Vinegar
Chef Passard calls this a hot-cold egg because of the contrast between the warm, poached egg yolk and the cold, tart crème fraîche. Chef Passard can work magic with the simplest of ingredients, and this is a wonderful example. Perhaps the most challenging step in this preparation is cutting the eggshells open evenly. The toque oeuf used by the Chef can be found on the internet, and if you plan to make this every few days it may be a good investment. Otherwise, a steady hand, good eye, and manicure scissors will work.
- Chives - 1/2 bunch, snipped
- Eggs - 8
- Crème fraîche - 1 cup (one 8-ounce. carton)
- Sherry vinegar - 1 tablespoon
- Pinch quatres epices (four-spice mixture)
- Fleur de sel - as needed
- Freshly ground white pepper, as needed
- Pure maple syrup, as needed
Using a toque oeuf, an egg scissors or combination of paring knife and straight-tipped manicure scissors, remove the tops from the narrow ends of 8 eggs. To remove tops: Balance the egg in one cup of the egg carton. Holding the egg firmly in one hand (egg shells are surprisingly hard), cut off the top with the egg scissors using the other hand. Alternately, measure about 1/2 inch down from the top of the small end. Pierce the egg shell with the tip of a sharp paring knife. Then insert the blade of straight-edged manicure scissors in the opening and cut around the top of the egg shell.
Using a spoon to hold in the yolk, pour the white out of each egg. (Save the whites, refrigerated and covered, for use in meringues or angel food cakes.) Wipe off the egg shell bottom with a damp paper towel and dry it (so it doesn't stick to the carton) and return the egg shell containing the yolk only to one cup of the egg carton. Repeat the process until all 8 eggs are cut and emptied of their whites.
While the eggs are settling (which helps prevent them from tipping while being cooked), place 1 cup crème fraîche in a mixing bowl. Add 1 pinch quatre epices (four spice mixture) and up to 1 tablespoon good Sherry vinegar; add by teaspoons and taste for flavor. Add a small pinch of fleur de sel and, using a balloon whisk, whip the cream until it is slightly thickened but not quite as stiff as whipped cream. Set aside.
Bring water to a simmer, 1-1/2 inches deep in a 6-1/2-inch wide saucepan. Season egg yolks in their shells with a pinch of fleur de sel, a pinch of white pepper, and a pinch of snipped chives.
Carefully place egg shells with their yolks in the simmering (not boiling) water and cook for 3 minutes.
Remove eggs from water; blot the shells dry. Place in egg cups or espresso cups with saucers. Top with a few tablespoonfuls of the reserved crème fraîche, and drizzle with a little pure maple syrup. Serve immediately.
Quatres epices, meaning "four spices" is available in gourmet sections and specialty stores. The blend usually consists of finely ground white pepper, cinnamon or cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
Fleur de sel is hand-harvested sea salt.
Chef Passard uses a toque oeuf, or special tool, designed to neatly cut the top off eggs. Egg scissors are more available and consist of scissor-like handles, and on one side a ring that fits over the top of the egg, and on the other a blade that cuts the top off the egg. Neither egg scissors nor using the paring knife-manicure scissors technique will result in the perfectly smooth cut of a toque oeuf; however, the imperfection has its charms.