Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Highlights: Les Oeufs Sauvages

There's still time to get your entries in for the Trout Caviar book giveaway --leave a comment about one of your 2011 LOCAL! food highlights by January 1; be specific, be evocative, regale and entice us!

Early this year things got pretty intense with the final push to finish the book--well, one of the final pushes; like a Hollywood slasher flick, the work on the Trout Caviar book had a lot of false endings. I had a big deadline at the beginning of February, or was it the end? At some point I took the approach of "Shannon can't read everything all at once," and I started sending things in piecemeal. Shannon is Shannon Pennefeather, whom I certainly hope I have mentioned before, my editor on the book, and managing editor of the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Shannon is also a kind and talented person endowed with considerable insight and an even greater gift of patience. I acknowledge her in the book by saying that she "worked very hard to turn an enthusiastic mess into something a good deal less messy, while leaving all the enthusiasm in." Hmmm, and yet somehow she let me end that sentence with a preposition. I suppose she would have found it presumptuous to edit her own acknowledgment. The truth of the matter is that my book would not be the book it is without her thoughtful editing and brilliant organization. And just so as not to leave anyone wondering: I am very, very happy with my book (leaving room for some after-the-fact picky self-criticism; whatever's wrong with the book is pretty much my fault).

Then as long as we're on the topic of highlights, I'd say that working with Shannon was one of the bright spots of 2011 for me. So thanks to that lengthy digression, this post is two-fer.

Back to the supposed "final days" of work on the manuscript: I took several writing retreats out to the cabin in January and February, me and the dogs. In the snowy, silent countryside there were few distractions other than stoking the fire. After hours of editing recipes I could clear my head with a snowshoe walk around the hilltop or a turn on the skis. There were a lot of fun things about working on the book; editing recipes was not one of them.

But in the midst of tweaking and editing existing dishes, I was coming up with new ones at the same time. This one, called "Hens and Eggs and Bacon" in the book, is my take on a delightful bit of Burgundian comfort food, oeufs en meurette--poached eggs in a red wine sauce. I gave it an air of the wild with the addition of hen of the woods mushrooms. I believe I've gone on record as saying that hens are the bacon of mushrooms, so this is a sort of bacon-on-bacon-on-egg dish, and how could that be bad?

Serve one egg per person for a first course; a two-egg portion, along with good crusty bread and a salad, makes a satisfying winter supper. The version pictured here was a Bide-A-Wee lunch during one of those writing retreats, and a better lunch for a snowy day, I can't imagine. It gave me the strength to pick up the editing pen again and tackle the eternal question, "Should that be thinly sliced, or sliced thin?"

Text and photos copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw


Nancy @ rivertreekitchen said...

"Thinly sliced," if you please! (But now I can't remember which version ended up in the book; I need to check.)
This dish looks gorgeously gooey and delicious.

Trout Caviar said...

Hah! Nancy, while noting your stated preference, Shannon and I sort of punted at the end--I had used both constructions throughout the book, and we finally said, you know, it's okay. It's understandable either way. I remember that conversation very clearly, holding my breath when I asked Shannon if she was okay with the inconsistency, breathing a big sigh of relief when she said she was. Thanks for your help on the book! (Nancy was the proofreader/copy editor who gave the book a final going-over once Ed. and I were cross-eyed. )


Al Webster said...


Thanks for the grouse in cider cream recipe in the Pioneer Press. Modified a bit to use pheasant breasts and fresh pressed cider. Really nice.