Egg Dinner with Michael Ruhlman
Last month, I attended an egg-centric dinner with cookbook author and food writer Michael Ruhlman. The event was held at The Forest Grill, a local restaurant owned by one of my culinary school professors, Chef Brian Polcyn (he literally wrote the book on charcuterie, with Ruhlman as co-author). You may know Ruhlman from his numerous appearances on Tony Bourdain’s TV shows, or from one of his many books like The Making of a Chef or Ratio. This dinner was to celebrate the recent release of his newest book, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient. It’s a terrific book, and you’ll have a chance to win your very own autographed copy at the end of this post!
Since Jeff and I jumped on the chance to buy tickets as soon as they went on sale, we naturally arrived a half hour early like the crazies that we are. We settled in with a round of Old Fashioneds and made lame small talk with each other while Ruhlman made his rounds for a quick chat at each table. Whenever I meet celebrities, I basically panic and blurt out something stupid, and this time was no exception. I told Ruhlman I couldn’t bake worth shit until I got a copy of Ratio, but things have improved since then. Which is all totally true, but seriously, those were my exact words. Oh well. Polcyn and Ruhlman gave a little welcome, and then the first of seven small courses (and cocktail/wine pairings) was served.
Part I: Whole Raw. Sashimi, Cured Yolk, Espellette.
We started with a little bit of sashimi that was topped with espellette (a type of chili pepper), dill and either an egg white meringue or some type of cream (I can’t remember which). We had been told that cured egg yolks were going to be grated over the dish, but for my money, I couldn’t find them. The people at the table next to us seemed a little confused by the possible omission, too. No big deal – this starter was still absolutely delicious, with the slightly spicy pepper being a nice counterpoint to the cold, thinly sliced fish.
Part II: Cooked Whole. Tête de Cochon, Diced Yolks & White, Sauce Gribiche, Grain Mustard.
So, Tête de Cochon translates to “pig’s head,” and it’s delicious. Don’t judge me. I like this stuff. It’s really just a thin slice of a terrine-like dish that is made inside a pig’s head, from lots of different parts of the pig. OK, I’m making it sound worse. Let’s talk about Sauce Gribiche. It’s one of the most delicious substances ever. It’s sort of like a mayo, but full of chopped egg whites and yolks, capers, pickles, herbs and mustard. The sauce, the cold salad greens and the tête de cochon came together into a lovely little plate of pig-and-egg goodness.
Part III: Cooked In Shell. Soft Cooked Egg, Madeira Sabayon, Sautéed Mushrooms, Feuille de Brick.
No egg dinner would be complete without some sort of dish featuring a soft-cooked egg with a runny yolk. This one was placed on top of a Madeira wine sabayon, which is a sauce made with an emulsion of eggs and wine. The dish was topped with feuille de brick, which is similar to crispy phyllo dough. I think this was my favorite dish of the night, just because I’m a sucker for a runny yolk.
Part IV: Separate White. Duck consommé, Crispy Duck Leg, Cabbage.
The meat course of this dinner was also incidentally the soup course. If you weren’t familiar with the process of making consommé, you’d be scratching your head wondering where the egg in this dish was. But, consommé is a concentrated, intensely flavorful broth that is clarified using a “raft” made with egg whites and chopped vegetables. This raft floats on top of the broth, drawing out all impurities from the broth (the raft is discarded at the end). See how clear the broth is in the photo above? That’s the beauty and utility of the egg! This consommé had so much duck flavor that I would have been happy with just a big mug of this, no duck leg or cabbage needed.
Part V: Cooked Out of Shell. Quail Egg Ravioli, Ricotta, Brown Butter Artichokes.
While the dinner up until this point had mainly utilized chicken eggs, the pasta course featured a ravioli filled with a quail egg. This course was delicious, but mainly because the nutty flavor of brown butter coated everything on the plate. I mean, what’s not great when it’s coated in brown butter, right?
Part VI: Whole Out of Shell. Grapefruit Curd, Chocolate Mousse, Crisp Puff Pastry.
True to my personality, I forgot to snap a photo of the dessert course. I rarely care about or order dessert at restaurants, so I had a few bites of this, was disappointed because there was surprise tarragon lurking in it (which I referred to as “the unannounced tarragon incident”), failed to take a photo and promptly forgot about this course. Sorry, Forest Grill pastry chef. I’m sure you worked hard on this. The grapefruit curd (curd is made with lots and lots of eggs!) were smooth and lovely.
Part VII: Separate White. Nougat.
Our parting gift was another dessert, packaged to take home – small chunks of egg white nougat wrapped up in paper. We also received autographed copies of the book we were there to celebrate. My TMJ-addled jaw couldn’t really handle this extremely chewy nougat, so my reporting on both dessert courses is officially useless. Speaking of that book, though . . .
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