WARREN, NJ - This is a great little salad that can be used as either a starter or a main dish. Pioppino mushrooms have a mild flavor with a long stem and small button on top and are light to dark brown in appearance. They can be found in farmer’s markets and at specialty food stores. If you have difficulty finding them, simply substitute your favorite mushroom. The watercress with its pepper flavor and almost vine like appearance provides a nice balance in color and flavor to the mushrooms. The pickled red onion simply adds a bit of color and a touch of acidity. If you don’t like pickled onions or simply do not feel like making them, chives or green onions would work well too. Finally, the soft boiled egg adds color and protein and brings a creaminess to the salad. It also adds another level of heartiness to the meaty mushrooms. If you prefer, hard boiled eggs would work as well, though I think the creaminess of a soft boiled egg or even a poached egg adds a nice touch that would be missed if you go that route.
2 Cups Watercress
2 Cups pioppino mushrooms
4 Eggs, soft boiled
1-2 Tablespoons pickled red onions or chopped green onions, green portions only
Touch of your best wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
Salt and red pepper flakes
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the meantime, clean the mushrooms by rubbing a paper towel over each, scrubbing off any dirt or debris that is visible.
Place cleaned mushrooms in a large bowl and drizzle a bit of olive oil over them. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss the mushrooms in the bowl until completely coated in the oil and then place on a baking sheet.
Roast the mushrooms for around 20 minutes, then turn them and roast another 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
Place mushrooms in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning level if necessary. Add just a scant touch of vinegar to the mushrooms. Toss again and set aside.
Place a large pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare a water bath by taking a very large bowl and filling it with lots of ice and water. Set aside.
Plan on one egg per serving. However, add a few extra eggs in case one breaks or does not turn out well.
Once the water is boiling, using a slotted spoon, add the eggs one at a time being careful not to break them. Once all the eggs are in, reduce the heat to medium low or low (the water should be bubbling but not at a full boil). Cook the eggs for around 8 minutes (a minute less for smaller eggs and a minute or so more for extra-large eggs).
Once the eggs have cooked, remove them promptly using the same slotted spoon. Place each egg immediately in the water bath and keep them in the ice water for around 5 minutes or until completely cooled. To help that along, gently tap each egg on the ends slightly cracking the shell. Place the eggs back in the water to finish cooling. Refrigerate the eggs once cooled until ready to serve.
Take the watercress and a tablespoon or two of olive oil and place both in a large bowl. Gently toss the watercress to coat. Take a platter and place the watercress and the mushrooms together and mix them together.
Add the pickled red onion or green onion tops if using and gently toss everything to combine.
Taste the salad and add a touch of salt and some red pepper flake if needed.
Cut each egg in half and arrange each on top of the salad.
Drizzle just a touch more olive oil and an even smaller touch of vinegar over the top of everything.
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!