The chickens on the wall brought eggs to my attention. When the sun shines through the “rideaux” that adorn our kitchen windows the chickens appear. They have no choice but to appear as they are embroidered, Noah like, in pairs, at regular intervals all over this oh so French version of curtains.
“Rideaux” are the prim, trim, lace cataracts which cover the eyes that are the windows of provincial French houses. In theory they prevent inquisitive eyes from prying, thus preserving the “liberté” of the householder: in practice they enable those inside to look out unobserved. Lace, being an openwork fabric patterned with holes, is the perfect material through which to observe, unobserved; for how else could one know exactly what one’s neighbour was doing without infringing their “liberté”, a keystone of the République.
The kitchen window acts as one of my many “studios”in and around our home. Daylight is diffused by the “rideaux” making it a perfect place to shoot pictures while I cook. The eggs, which I had just bought this morning, looked particularly special and speckled, and I quickly had one of them model a very cool little white number for me, which iconic image brought to mind the importance of this building block of nutrition. Even without having chickens in our garden, which makes us very unusual here, eggs are so readily available that I forget how how magical they can be in their transformation into countless delicious guises. Listing the possibilities would be dull fare, as lists replace the juice and pleasure with dusty facts and bland statistics.
Instead of lists , over the next few days, I’ll share with you some memories and recipes of egg dishes that will hopefully illustrate their importance to me and the pleasure that I take in simple food. An omelette and a glass of wine, if the eggs are good, the omelette baveuse and the wine crisp and fruity, is more pleasing to me than many other more complex offerings. I remember such an occasion, not long ago, when I was teaching photography to a client on a hot summer’s day. We had gone to a small riverside village and were so deeply engrossed in taking pictures that time seemed to pass imperceptibly. Time is important if one wishes to eat lunch in provincial France. Lunch starts at midday and ends two hours later. People may well be sitting in the restaurant beyond those crucial times, but the kitchen will be closed. A look at our watches told us that we were past the witching hour but our desire for something delicious drove us forward. The main thoroughfare through the village had a deserted feeling, which is not at all unusual in France, but there was a betting shop that appeared to have some signs of life. We thought it might be worthwhile going inside to make enquiries. Not surprisingly, the betting shop itself was empty but voices could be heard through a door to the side of the counter. Opening the door revealed a delightful room, set with tables and chairs, overlooking the very river bank on which we had been standing some few minutes before. A handful of people were finishing their coffee or draining the last sips of wine left in their glasses, which did not bode well. We sat down at a table that was laid and already charged with a carafe of wine and a jug of water, as is the case with restaurants serving a menu *ouvrier”. The time being twenty minutes past kitchen closing it did not seem likely that we would be enjoying anything more than a glass of wine and a beautiful view but, to our surprise, a smiling serveuse, who had just come into the room from the kitchen, came over and asked if we would like to eat. There was no question of choosing what we would like to eat, just the question as to whether we would like to eat. We gratefully thanked her and put ourselves in her hands. I can truthfully say that I have never before or since seen such a perfect plump pillow of beaten golden egg than that which she shortly brought to our table. A warmed plate was put before each of us and the omelette was cut in two revealing a meltingly soft interior, flecked with green from the finely chopped herbs, the butter oozing onto the serving plate. A plain salad of green leaves, dressed with a well seasoned vinaigrette, some fresh bread and unsalted butter were the sole accompaniments. We ate in silence, savouring the perfectly judged flavours, the wine, the sun and the view.
Today, I’m sharing Oeufs Meurette with you. What it lacks in obvious beauty it fully makes up in deep, rich flavour. This is a dish that I look for in good bistros. Like an omelette, it is a yardstick by which a kitchen can be judged and in the same way it will only be as good as the ingredients used, together with the care taken in each part of the preparation and the cooking. I heartily recommend that you try it, using the recipe below, from Stephane Reynaud’s “Ripailles”, which is another book that should definitely be on your shelves.
Scrumptious. I love a poached egg. I will put this book on my “must have” list. Thank you for sharing the recipe and your lovely photos.
You won’t regret it:)
It sounds like fortune smiled upon you twice that day, Roger, once with the timing and second with the dish.
I’m just waiting for the shower of gold….hopefully not someone pissing on me:)
Yes, I try to avoid golden showers for similar reasons.
Well, that looks a fine recipe which I will try. But I tend to agree that there is no better omelette than that eaten in good company, in some sunny bar or resto, with nothing more serious to worry about than a bit of light people-watching. Not forgetting the wine and the fresh green salad.
There you have it:)
Oh my, this looks wonderful. I had to chuckle at the in theory part that lace curtains prevent prying. If only! I don’t like the idea that anyone can see in at night, creeps me out. When I first moved in with my husband he had lace curtains and felt no one can see in or didn’t think it was a big deal. Until our friends mentioned they walked by and wanted to know our opinion on the episode we just watched. Guess what we replaced?
That was exactly like us when we moved here. We swore that we would never have them..but there they are:)
When I was moving into my first house the windows only had 6″ “curtains” and the neighbour stood next to my dad and said how the previous owner would exercise in the window in skimpy clothes and wondered if I would do the same thing. Next to my dad! Showed no shame in the request. Don’t like being watched!
I would have been thinking of putting up a “For Sale” sign at that point:)
I did think that…
Oh dear… I will probably say this about all your next posts dedicated to eggs, but Oeufs en meurette is one of my favorite ways of eating eggs! I usually make them using leftover Boeuf bourguignon sauce (which means I hardly ever make them), they are such a treat, and this recipe sounds delicious! And your writing is delightful, I love your description of lace curtains, and your expérience eating the perfect omelette (it sure sounds like the perfect one!). What are “French” shallots?
I think he’s referring to banana shallots…it’s funny, but I’d never noticed that. It’s a translated version from the original so it may be an American edition. I normally use the big shallots rather than the little “gris”.
Hmmm ca me met l’eau a la bouche… That omelette with fresh bread and utter sounds like the ideal lunch… I’d have asked for salted butter though 😉 laura
We have a butter here, with sea salt crystals in it, that is very good with radishes….
Hmmm even better, not big fan of radishes but could have the butter and fresh baguette, lol 🙂
Radishes taste so good with butter…you’d be surprised:)
Love the story.
I would have never put wine and eggs together, but I’ll trust you on this one. 🙂
I had the same reaction when I first heard of this dish some 30 years ago. It works…trust me:)
Every post of yours delight the senses and reads like a short story. I now covet windows with rideaux
Cheers for that….:)
Beautiful dish! – Shanna
Thanks, Shanna….give it a try:)
You do inspire with your ode to the egg! I, too, am an eggophile (?) and a fair hand with the humble omelette. You are right – eggs are the perfect food. And for some reason, far tastier in France than anywhere else. Merci!
You’re right….I don’t know why that is the case…but it is:)
Love it soooo much ! Unable to do it but, I eat them well. Yours look just scrumptious 🙂
Being able “to eat them well” is all that is required:)
That’s a good day for food, though I have a friend who’s frightened of boiled eggs!
That’s funny, because I have a fear of the white not being cooked through. I can’t deal with a runny egg white:)
Ha ha – you are right, runny egg white is horrible 😉
I read this earlier today, Roger, whilst waiting for a meeting to commence. And, I was so smug, because I have those little egg cup thingies, and I thought, “I am so hip to this post.”
And then you threw in the red wine sauce on a poached egg, which just has to be an orgy in a plate. MTM and I must make it. Thank you for sharing the recipe.
A miracle to get lunch, especially a delicious one, beyond 1400! We traveled with a friend in France once—and no matter how many times we told her, she couldn’t quite get the set mealtime thing down. I’ve always wanted to try Oeufs Meurette. I have the book (called French Feasts here) and the ingredients. So no excuse!
I think that you’ll really enjoy it:)
What a beautiful post!
I could easily eat eggs for dinner at least once a week, but I’m the minority here so it’s not going to happen any time soon. This is a really unique way to prepare eggs, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on a menu let alone tasted it. The sauce must be to die for!
It’s a particularly French dish….I have only seen it here…you’ll have to test it one day:)
Now that’s a different twist to a poaching liquid. Nice.
It’s really good, Yummy…
This looks wonderful, perfect for a winter brunch. Very happy to have discovered your charming blog.
That’s very kind indeed…I’m glad you enjoyed it:)
I don’t do eggs, except the chocolate variety. your writing is scrumptious, though. Thank you!
Chocolate eggs won’t work as well in this recipe….I’d like to see the picture, though:)
Hmm. Maybe if they were poached in custard it would work. I’m sure you’d like that 🙂
Moving swiftly into nightmare mode:)
Ooh this is a new one to me but I’ll be giving it a go. If you have an egg in the house, you’ve always got a meal to look forward to 🙂 And I smiled at the “rideaux” – in England I was adamant I wouldn’t have “nets” but our windows are so huge and people can see right in I had to give in or else share my life with the rest of the street!
It’s funny, but when we lived in England there were so many people about that we never felt conscious of them….the “rideaux” are an infection that we picked up over here:)
I think simple things done well, are pleasurable and memorable because we have less expectation so there is more scope. And eggs are amazing. They are the forerunner to other edible items and are a perfect food in themself. Nice recipe, contains all my favourite ingedients.
Glad you liked it and I’m in total agreement with you.
I’ve never seen eggs prepared in red wine, Roger, but your photo is so rich looking that I fear I’ve been missing out.
oh my, this looks fantastic! Something new for me to try 🙂
That is a pretty perfect egg, Roger….thanks for the recipe!
Glad you like it, Kate…cheers:)
Oh pretty… Is there anything as open to conjecture as an unopened egg? Mmm…
Good point….only by opening it can we know…
How did I misses this post? Lovely story, and a classic recipe. And of course we’ll have to drink thy he rest of the red wine..