Farm Fresh Poached Eggs, Dashi, Seaweed Butter on Toast

Autumn, Savory Recipes • 10 Nov 2014

“Please, mommy, get these silly birds to stop pecking my body,” screamed my son, as he cowered in the face of a rather despotic peep of chickens. We were once again at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, this time to collect eggs from the mobile hen houses and bond as a family among the comically frenetic chickens.

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We stood surrounded by about 100 birds, many of whom were pecking rhythmically at my lanky rain boots or murderously untying my husband’s rubber shoe laces, which we were informed look like worms. The wind blew away our hesitation as we began extracting freshly laid eggs from the hen houses. While my son gingerly plucked warm, tan orbs from the hay nests, I bonded with a bird I named Gertrude, who allowed me to cradle her in my arms and caress her gleaming feathers with gentle fingers. We all found our niche among the hen houses, and left boiling with excitement and with a half dozen farm-fresh eggs.

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I want to use the eggs in their purest form, to showcase their farm freshness. I poach the eggs delicately until their buttery orange yolks run like velvety lava. The eggs float serenely in rice bowls, enveloped by tamari-infused dashi, a Japanese soup stock made from kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. A sweet, perfectly poached egg requires crunch, a diametrically opposed texture, to mop up the runny yolks. Before I make the dashi I whip soft butter with sweet and salty seaweed paste, tamari, a bit of sugar and a sprinkle of rice vinegar to make seaweed infused butter. The bread must be slightly warm to room temperature or the butter will melt uncontrollably into the dashi.

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I have never made dashi before but knew it as the quintessential base for miso soup, tempura sauce and one of my favorites, agedashi tofu. I have read that making dashi is an extremely simple act, the sum of two parts, and perhaps the quickest rendered broth in existence; though one must proceed as a scientist, paying impeccable attention to timing.

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To make dashi I turn to the mother of a very good friend, who instructs me that for every eight ounces of water use three square inches of kombu. She cuts slits in the kombu to extract additional flavor. Gently heat the kombu in water to extract its essence. As soon as the water bubbles, remove the kombu. Letting it percolate for too long yields an unpleasantly musty, undesirably strong odor. Add a quarter cup of bonito flakes to the broth, infusing the oceany liquid with a smoky savoriness.

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We sit down to steaming bowls, quivering eggs at the hub. The smell of smoke and ocean is enticing, and we break the whites in unison to reveal perfect golden sunniness. The yolks languidly run into the dashi, which emits comforting warmth and luxurious perfume. The yeasty sponge soaks up the broth, absorbing the savory umami juice in its dimples.

Farm Fresh Poached Eggs, Dashi, Seaweed Butter on Toast

4 cold eggs
6 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 extremely fresh thick slices French bread, cut on the bias

Seaweed butter:
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
2 1/2 teaspoons seaweed paste
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

Dashi:
16 ounces (2 cups) water
6 square inches kombu
1/2 cup bonito flakes

2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

1. To make the dashi, cut the kombu into 3 inch pieces and cut several slits into each piece. Place the kombu and cold water in a medium pot over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and immediately remove the kombu from the liquid. Bring liquid to a boil and add bonito flakes. Simmer for about a minute and then strain out the bonito. Keep dashi warm over low while you make the seaweed butter and poach the eggs.

2. Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. While you wait for water to boil, make seaweed butter.

3. Add butter, seaweed paste, salt, rice vinegar and soy sauce to a food processor and blend until fluffy and smooth.

4. To poach eggs, crack each egg into a small ramekin and add vinegar to simmering water. Holding the cups close to the water, gently drop each egg into the simmering liquid. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes.

5. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon set each one in the center of a rice bowl. Before serving, spread a generous amount of butter onto the toasts. Add mirin and soy sauce to warm dashi and distribute evenly among four bowls. Serve warm with toasts.

Yield: Serves 4.

2 Responses

  1. Mark Sonders

    Fabulous! Making sake no misoyaki tonight-
    the salmon marinades as we speak.

  2. Soo Cool! Love that you incorporated traditional Japanese cooking techniques into this post!

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