EDISON, NJ - On a recent trip to Florence my wife and I stumbled across a wine shop that also served pretty extraordinary food. One of the dishes they started with was a roasted porcini mushroom with a poached egg both served atop a bit of soft pecorino cheese that had been melted with a touch of cream into almost a fondue-like texture. It seemed to me to be possibly the most quintessential Italian dish my wife and I enjoyed in Italy…and we ate a lot at a lot of different restaurants, trying the local fare on a variety of levels. Anyway, this dish is simple and elegant, using local, seasonal ingredients, and taking those simple ingredients and making them way greater than the sum of their individual parts. I tried several times to recreate this dish at home and this recipe represents the best results I’ve achieved thus far. I use Portobello mushrooms as we do not really have access to fresh porcinis in New Jersey (as far as I know) but you can certainly adapt the recipe to use whichever mushroom you like. However, I would stay away from dried mushrooms and stick with a fresh variety. As a bonus, just as our waiter told us, you can adapt this dish to whatever is in season. We were there during porcini season. They serve the same dish using asparagus, artichokes, etc…whatever is freshest and tastes best at that particular moment during the year. I love it! So, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did.
Serve as a starter for a dinner party or if it’s just for you and your family, serve it alongside a salad and you will be good to go. In Florence, it was served inside a small Mason jar. So feel free to use that or simply serve in a small ramekin.
Note: Look for soft pecorino cheese. The regular dry aged pecorino cheese commonly found alongside Parmesan cheese in the grocery stores simply will not work as it will not melt into a creamy fondue.
2 Portobello mushrooms
1 ½ Cups soft pecorino cheese
¼ Cup cream
4 Farm fresh eggs
1 Teaspoon white vinegar
Olive oil for drizzling
4-8 Fresh Italian parsley leaves
Coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
· Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
· Arrange the Portobello mushrooms on a baking sheet and drizzle a bit of olive oil over to coat both sides. Roast for 25-35 minutes, or until cooked through and browned.
· Remove mushrooms from oven and allow to cool.
· In the meantime, take the cheese and cube or shred it. Place cheese and cream in a medium sized pan and cook over low heat. Whisk mixture until cheese is melted and well incorporated. Once finished, place on lowest heat level and leave for the time being.
· In another medium sized pan, fill with water and bring water just to the point of boiling.
· Add the vinegar to the pan and then swirl the water around for a couple of seconds. Add the eggs one at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan; so if needed, work in batches. Cook eggs for approximately 3 minutes, until the eggs are cooked but still have a runny center (or cook to your preferred level of doneness). Remove eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and carefully place them on a plate lined with a paper towel.
· To assemble: Take your mason jar or ramekin and spoon enough cheese so it covers the bottom of the vessel and comes up to no more than a ¼ of an inch on the sides.
· Slice the mushrooms in half or in quarters (depending on how large your Portobello mushrooms actually are). Season the mushrooms with a bit of the sea salt. Add the mushroom segments in over the cheese.
· Then carefully add one egg per person served. Add a leaf or two of Italian parsley. Drizzle lightly with the best quality olive oil you have and a touch of coarse sea salt and a very light grind of black pepper.
Serve while hot. This recipe serves 4 but you can scale up or down very easily to suit your needs.
Craig Thiebaud is a Diplomat of Classic Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) located in SOHO in New York City. After extensive training in the Art of French cooking and professional food preparation in general, he brings his knowledge of food and passion for cooking to us by sharing culinary techniques and creating recipes that mainly use local, seasonal ingredients and can be easily recreated in the home kitchen. Good, wholesome meals for the family can be created quickly with planning, using the best techniques with the best ingredients that are both affordable and available. Let's get back into the kitchen together!