Poached eggs have a magical ability to turn bits of food into a meal. Leftover grilled asparagus? Lentil soup? Toast and pesto? Big green salad? Yes, yes and yes. There couldn’t be an easier dinner, really. I mean, hummus and toast or cereal and milk could be dinner, but if you’re going for that whole real-food, on-a-plate, served-to-other-people-type dinner, eggs are your easiest, cheapest bet.
You might recognize the inspiration for this dish, which at its best is a delightfully curly mess of bitter, neon green frisée, perfectly poached eggs, crisp lardons and toasted croutons. Sadly, it also sometimes presents itself in a pile of wilted, overly dressed spinach, soggy raw sliced mushrooms, flabby bacon bits and green-tinged hardboiled egg. Let’s aim for the former, shall we?
I saw this beautiful lettuce at the Farmer’s Market last week; fittingly, it’s called Merlot. The gorgeous dark purple leaves turn light green towards the heart, making for a striking salad.
The dressing is something I’ve been toying with for a while now, an updated balsamic. It’s got bold garlic, Dijon and fresh thyme, a touch of sweet tart pomegranate molasses, a blend of balsamic and red wine vinegar, and finished with extra virgin olive oil and toasted walnut oil. Roasted mushrooms take over for bacon and toasted walnuts offer a satisfying nutty crunch.
It may look like a long list of ingredients, but every component can be made ahead of time and combined when you’re ready to eat. Heck, you could use the prewashed mixed greens and herbs salad blend and store bought dressing if you were feeling especially
lazy rushed, I’m not here to judge. As long as you’re feeding me dinner.
Merlot Lettuce with Roasted Mushrooms & Runny Eggs
The key here is an intensely acid dressing. On first taste, it may seem too acidic, but once combined with the rich egg yolk, it’s perfect. Another note, don’t let poaching scare you, just buy a dozen eggs and practice a couple to get the hang of it. You’ll be a short order cook in no time.
An old restaurant trick: the eggs can be poached well ahead of time, up to 24 hours. Poach all the eggs at once, then shock them in ice water until cool and keep them submerged in water and refrigerated until ready to eat. Reheat in hot (not boiling) water for 1-2 minutes then drain on paper towels and proceed with the recipe.
Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing:
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
1 teaspoon toasted walnut oil
¼ cup olive oil
1 lb. cremini mushrooms (or mixed wild mushrooms)
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme or rosemary leaves (optional)
1 head Merlot lettuce (or other fresh greens), washed, torn into bite size bits and spun dry
Fresh Italian parsley, tarragon, chervil, dill (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
8 fresh eggs
Make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the garlic, mustard, salt, molasses, vinegars, thyme and walnut oil until incorporated. Then, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until fully emulsified. Taste the dressing on a piece of lettuce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Roast the mushrooms. Preheat the oven to 400⁰F. Wash the mushrooms and pat dry, then toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs (if using) on a baking sheet. Roast until the mushrooms are deep golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Toss the mushrooms with 2-3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and set aside.
Dress the salad. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce and herbs (if using) with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves without leaving excess in the bottom of the bowl. Portion into four large bowls or places and set aside while you poach the eggs.
Poach the eggs. Fill a medium sauce pan two-thirds full with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low until the water is barely simmering and add the vinegar and a teaspoon of salt.
Crack an egg into a small bowl, then slip it gently into the water; repeat with the remaining eggs. Don’t stir the water, just let them cook for 30 seconds, then flip them over and gently swirl them in the water with a slotted spoon. Continue to cook for 1½-2 minutes. Check to see if they are done by lifting an egg out of the water with the slotted spoon and poking it. The white on the outside should be firm and the center (where the yolk is) should be jiggly. For more well done eggs, continue to cook until the yolks are hard.
Once the eggs are done, remove to a paper towel and blot dry (or to ice water, see note above), then trim the scraggly edges off the whites.
Serve. Top each salad with two hot poached eggs, a spoonful of the roasted mushrooms and chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.