I admit that this little detour is on the loony side. I was all set to tell you about my duck soup, and the fancy duck breast thing I made, which turned out very well, and was particularly nice with red cabbage. And I will. And then I will get off this duck hobby-horse, I promise.
The thing is, I was side-tracked while leafing through my recently acquired copy of Roald Dahl's Cookbook. In it, there is a picture of, and recipe for a mind-boggling variation on ouefs en gelee., that simple (?) and elegant French classic which I had never, in any form, made myself. You see a big earthenware bowl of brothy-brown flecked aspic scattered with tarragon leaves. Suspended serenely within, well spaced and seemingly not bumped or lumped to one side or the other, are ten (!) perfectly peeled, gently soft-boiled eggs!
Next to the bowl, on the rustic looking table, is a generous platter of buttered toast. I found this set up madly inviting. Could anything be simultaneously simpler and more complicated? One is advised to practice before serving it to guests. I should say so! If you have not tried it yourself, I can tell you that the successful peeling of one soft-boiled egg is no mean feat, and getting it suspended nicely in an appropriate amount of proper aspic is only slightly less crazed. Hence, the far less impressive picture you see before you.
This dish can be made with softly poached eggs, too- and that is easier. Though I am a lover of poached eggs, I promise that the soft-boiled version is noticeably better in this situation- should you find yourself in this situation, which you most likely will not, as you are probably not bonkers. I must admit, the poached egg, done singly, looks fancier and is easier to unmold. Still....
I think that the 10 egg bowl version would be a totally charming Mothers' Day brunch or supper offering. At least for the sort of mother who, like myself, would be wowed by the presentation. it would be so fine, scooping out an egg and some aspic onto my plate- with a big spoon, and nibbling away, with some of that very nice buttered toast. And some strong hot tea. I think I'd have to practice for a year or two to pull that one off, without wasting a few dozen eggs, at least.
Here's where the duck comes in. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you might want to review the most recent few of this series of posts. Or not.) If you make a confit, and chill it, surrounded by the (strained) fat in which it was prepared, there will be, on the bottom of your crock, or in my case, plastic container*, a nice layer of jellied duck juice, a/k/a delicious, natural aspic. If you used a traditional stoneware vessel of some sort, the aspic is not much use- you can't get it out until you've used up your confit , when you scoop the fat out to reheat and strain it. By then, being brothy, it is not so fresh, and maybe even dubious safety-wise.
But, a plastic container is flexible. So you can wiggle the sides, and upend the block of confit-containing fat, and peel of that lovely aspic. If the confit is by this action exposed, you can stick the fat block back in the container, microwave it a little,adjust the confit so it's all encased in the fat, and re-chill for storage. And then you've got some beautiful aspic, enough to do one egg, you see, without resort to gelatin, even. Though I've unmolded this one, it looks a tad goofy. It's kind of too tall, and not so symmetrical. After I did the unmolding, I concluded that it was silly; I should have just made it in a pretty container, and served it still inside, to scoop out with a little spoon. **
Which I will do in the future. It was lovely; the egg (boiled a scant 4 minutes) still soft and runny, but not weirdly liquid, was so nice with the intensely flavored aspic, and I did have buttered toast and tea, too, and it was about as good as I'd imagined.
This is what I did: First, I made the 4 minute egg, chilled it under very cold water to stop it cooking, and peeled it very, very carefully. I made two eggs, and it was a good thing I did, because I ruined the first one peeling it. Then, I spooned a little of the chilled aspic into a small container, big enough to hold the egg, covered. I set the egg on top, then melted the rest of the aspic to liquid in the microwave. I let it cool and poured it over the egg to cover it. There were some fresh tarragon leaves added as I poured- just a few. Then I chilled it, and there you are.
I do understand that if you aren't making a confit, you are not going to go out and get a duck in order to prepare a single egg in aspic. But you can, of course, make an aspic the usual way, with broth and gelatin. You can even make 10 eggs, suspended in a big bowl. If you do, I hope you will tell me about it, email me a photo, and gloat.
If you are looking for a recipe for making aspic from stock and powdered gelatin, you can find quite a few googling around. Here is one that looks credible.
*Clearly, if you are using a plastic container for this, you want one which is heat resistant, microwave safe, and has a really good seal.
**The pretty little spoon in the picture, which says "Muriel" on it, was the proverbial silver spoon with which my mother-in-law was more or less born. In her mouth. As they say. She left me a number of pretty things of this ilk, so it would seem that she liked me. This was not always clear to me during her actual life.