With spring on the horizon we can only think of one thing: foraging! And February-May happens to be the season for Northern California's local lettuce gem: Miner's Lettuce.
This week's recipe comes out of the eponymous cookbook from Pacific Heights' SPQR by Matthew Accarrino and Shelley Lindgren. "There is an irresistible whimsy in an egg cooked in the center of a piece of bread," the book explains, and it provides the perfect canvas for your locally picked finds. Chef Matt Accarrino forages for Miner's Lettuce everywhere he can but most recently he did some foraging while biking through Napa, "It's really easy to find, it's everywhere but it's best to pull off onto the lesser-used side roads and look around there." It tends to grow in shady, moist places, like under trees.
The best part is, the difficulty level for this recipe is really very flexible; if you don't have time to make the brown stock from scratch, Accarrino suggests using anything from beef stock to saba or aged balsamic vinegar as a substitute. Or you can go all in and make your own brioche (You Can Cook this Insanely Complicated Brioche recipe) and even your own butter, "It is surprisingly easy to do" the cookbook tells us, "pour good cream in a stand mixer and whip it long enough that the butterfat breaks free of the buttermilk. Drain the buttermilk away, mix the butterfat with a pinch of salt, and it is ready to use".
Foraging, whipping butter... how much more San Francisco can you be?
Egg "In the Hole" with Mushrooms and Miner's Lettuce
60 grams • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) rutabaga, peeled and cut in small dice
extra virgin olive oil
160 grams • 5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) mushrooms, preferably hen of the woods
60 grams • 1/4 cup finely diced bacon
40 grams • 3 tablespoons white wine
115 grams • 1/2 cup brown stock (recipe follows)
4 (3/4-inch) slices brioche
about 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to finish
15 grams • 1/2 shallot, minced
1 gram • 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
a handful of miner’s lettuce or chickweed
In a small pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the diced rutabaga until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain well. Heat a film of olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until almost smoking. Scatter the mushrooms in an even layer and sear without moving them until they begin to brown, about 1 minute. Turn the heat down, give the mushrooms a stir, and season with salt. Sauté until the mushrooms are cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Drain the mushrooms on paper towels and return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat has nearly fully rendered, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rutabaga and cook until the bacon is fully rendered and the rutabaga edges have started to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Drain the bacon and rutabaga on paper towels. Return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat. Pour in the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Pour in the stock and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Using a 2-inch round cutter, punch holes in the center of each slice of bread but keep the punched out pieces in the slices. To toast the bread, heat a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If the skillet can’t accommodate all the bread, work in batches.) Add a few pats of butter to the pan and swirl until melted. Place the bread in the pan, pressing down lightly to ensure it browns evenly. Brown one side, about 2 minutes and flip the slices over. Remove the centers and place in the pan to toast alongside the slices.
Crack the eggs and slide one egg into each hole. Cook the eggs for a minute to set, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake the eggs until the whites are fully cooked but the yolks are still runny, about 6 minutes. Divide the egg toasts among 4 plates. Return the pan with the stock to medium heat. Swirl in the shallot and tarragon and stir back in the mushrooms, rutabaga, and bacon. Season with salt and swirl in a pat of butter. Spoon the sauce over the eggs, then place a toast round askew over each egg. Garnish each plate with a few pieces of miner’s lettuce.
makes about 4 quarts
Brown stock is “brown” because of the addition of tomato paste. To deepen the flavor, I also roast the bones. This recipe makes classic veal stock, but squab, lamb, duck, venison, and chicken bones also make terrific brown stocks.
4500 grams • 10 pounds bones, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
113 grams • 1/3 cup tomato paste
300 grams • 11/2 yellow onions, chopped
150 grams • 2 carrots, chopped
150 grams • 2 or 3 celery stalks, chopped
100 grams • 3 or 4 leek tops
6 thyme sprigs
6 parsley stems
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, season the bones with salt and pepper and lightly coat with oil. Spread the bones on a the prepared baking sheet and roast, rotating the bones once or twice, until evenly browned, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the bones to a large stock pot and cover with about 3 inches of water (about 8 quarts). Bring to a brisk simmer, lower to a gently simmer, and cook, skimming the surface occasionally, for 1 hour.
Mix the tomato paste with 1/2 cup of water, stir into the stock, and simmer for 2 hours. Add the vegetables and aromatics and cook for another 2 hours. After 5 hours of total cooking, strain the stock through a fine sieve and transfer to a clean pot to reduce by one-third. Strain again and cool. Before using, scrape off any fat that has congealed on the surface. The stock keeps, refrigerated, for 1 week. For longer storage, freeze it.
Reprinted with permission from SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine, by Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.