Eat, Memory

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New Times food writer Amanda Hesser talks about memory and food associated with important moments in her book, Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times. She also talks about chef Julia Child and the recipe that caused her to fail her Cordon Bleu final examinations.

Oeuf Mollets, Sauce Béarnaise
Soft-Cooked Eggs, Béarnaise Sauce
Serves 6

6 very fresh eggs

For the Béarnaise sauce

4 peppercorns, crushed
1 large shallot, chopped
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ cup white wine
2 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons water
8 ozs  unsalted butter, melted
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
Cayenne pepper

1.    Prepare the oeufs mollets: Cook very fresh eggs in boiling, salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, according to the size.  Transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.  Peel the cooled eggs under warm running water and set aside in a bowl of hot, not boiling, salted water until ready to serve.  “Mollet eggs” can be kept warm for some time without the yolks hardening.

2.    Prepare the Béarnaise sauce: Combine the crushed peppercorns, shallot, 2 tablespoons of the tarragon, the vinegar and the wine in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook over low heat until all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from the heat, cool and strain.

3.    Put the egg yolks, the water and the cooled reduction in a medium saucepan.  Whisk over very low heat until the mixture becomes foamy and thickens and the whisk leaves a clear trail on the bottom of the pan.  Do not let the mixture boil.  Remove from the heat.

4.    Whisking constantly, add the melted butter, drop by drop, until the mixture starts to emulsify.  Then whisk in the remaining butter in a slow steady stream until the sauce is thick and creamy.  Whisk in the chopped chervil and the remaining tablespoon of tarragon.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.  Serve spooned over the eggs.