"Tonight, I will kill you." Those were the words I remembered when I first tasted this dish. On a recent trip, I had brought Tony Bourdain along to keep me company. And no, that wasn't what he said when he realized that he would be spending summer vacation with me and my six and nine year-old boys at our family cabin. While I was flying to Colorado, Tony was visiting Quebec in season 2 of No Reservations. The restaurant was Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, and even though pigs feet were on the door, foie gras was on the menu. Not just an appetizer or a main course dish, but nine different preparations of everything from duck terrine to a foie gras tart, foie gras poutine, foie gras hamburger, foie gras stuffed rabbit, foie gras on a buckwheat pancake with bacon and syrup, even a foie gras hot dog. Chef Martin Picard gave the order to kill his friend and fellow foie gras lover with his entire foie gras menu, instructing his kitchen to "give him, give him, give him, and when he dies, stop."
Tony very nearly died that night and that experience was in my mind when I tried this appetizer from Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook. The prosciutto, the duck egg, the truffle oil all conjures the "rich, outrageously over the top" experience of Tony's foie gras fantasia. Mario's dish is these things, but it's even more. The rustic bread gives a crunch contrast in texture absent from Montreal's hometown cheese, gravy and french fries poutine dish. More importantly, Mario always remembers the acid necessary to brighten and balance a dish. In this case, while there is a truffle vinaigrette drizzled over the top, the greens are prepared with a lemon vinaigrette. The result is a trip through ecstasy with a return to readiness for the next course. No flushed cheeks and bloated belly, although Tony can be forgiven, he did have 15 courses that evening in Montreal.
An ingredients note, Mario suggests guanciale, pancetta or bacon. I had prosciutto in the fridge and used that. I liked the flavor without the thick slices of the other options. Also, I am not a frisee person, so I substituted arugula for Mario's suggestion. Similarly, I made no effort to procure real truffles, instead using truffle oil. These are all choices we make in adopting restaurant menus to our home. But don't substitute the duck egg, and never forget that heaven is somewhere between pork fat and sauteed duck liver. Serves 2.
5 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 handfuls arugula
1 tsp truffle oil
1 tsp sherry vinegar
4 strips prosciutto
2 tbsp butter
2 duck eggs
2 slices of baguette, cut thick and grilled or toasted
Whisk 3 tsp of olive oil with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Combine with the arugula and set aside. Mix the other 2 tsp of olive oil with the truffle oil and sherry vinegar. Whisk and set aside. In a non-stick saute pan over medium heat, cook the prosciutto slices until browned. Remove to a paper towel. Discard the fat and wipe the pan. Turn up the heat under the pan to medium-high and add the butter. When the butter is heated and the foam subsides, add each egg and cook without flipping for 4 to 5 minutes. When the egg is nearly done, tilt the pan and spoon some of the hot butter over the egg to finish the cooking. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the pan. Assemble each plate with some arugula on the bottom, an egg, a piece of baguette and finally the prosciutto on top. Drizzle with the truffle vinaigrette and serve.