Potato Rosti and the Perfect Poached Egg.

About a week ago, I went all out and decided to make my own beef stock. A proper dark, rich brown beef stock, mind you – a liquid head and shoulders above and beyond what you usually get at your supermarket. Right now, the only advantage stock cubes have over a stock made from scratch is convenience. Boil water, add stock cube. Flavor-wise, though, a stock cube lacks the depth of flavor that can really take your meal to the next level and turn it into something special. Also, stock cubes tend to be quite salty, and it’s easy to over-salt a sauce made with this stock; especially if it’s a reduction. With my homemade stock, I can control the saltiness. I didn’t add a single dash of salt during the entire process, and it really paid off.

As an aside; food writing, I find, tends to be a mishmash of commonly used quips and quotes; much like cooking, I suppose. What separates a great food writer from a good one is the ability to take the formulaic and reimagine it. If you recognize phrases from a cooking show or a food article, I apologize; but instead of picking apart the writing, I suggest you focus on the whole article; like a great stock, it should be more than the sum of its parts.

Back to my stock: I reserved the rendered fat that formed on top of the stock as it cooled, and since I can’t get any other type of flavor imparting animal fat, I planned to use it to give an extra edge to whatever it is that I was making. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Warmed to room temperature, it has the texture of a soft butter, and is an off white milky color. Instead of a dense fat odor that sticks to your nostrils, it gives off the aroma of everything that went into the stock – thyme, rosemary, celery and bay leaf – in addition to a great, almost smoky, beef flavor.

And this brings me to the present day. I was watching the 4th season of the Great British Menu, and loved what Danny Millar pulled out of his rear end as a serious contender for the Main Dish: a Roasted Rib of Beef, served with Potato Rosti. Now, I’ve made a Roasted rib of beef before, following Georges Laurier’s recipe, and I’ve gotten rave reviews. But I’ve never made a Potato Rosti before. After reading the recipe, I found it was almost identical to making home fries, with just minor ingredient changes and one extra step at the end for presentation. Now, I have made home fries before, and for a long time, it was my thing; but I went off it when I got sick of its flavor profile. There was a meatiness and robustness I could not achieve without using cured smoked bacon.

But I think I found a solution for that.

Read the recipe for yourself, and if rendered beef fat is not available (it probably isn’t), use butter instead. The flavor will not be as meaty and hearty, but will still be one of the best things you’ll eat this year. Mr. Millar may have served it alongside a honking chunk of cooked flesh, but I chose to make a poached egg to go with it, thereby tying it in with a breakfast vibe. A poached egg is better, in my opinion, because there’s nothing else messing with the flavor – it’s all egg. Soft whites and a creamy yolk are wonderful to eat on its own, and paired up with the Rosti bad boy it becomes a better way to be. After experimenting with a bunch of techniques, I found the best one neutralizes the fact that all our eggs here in Cairo are at least a few days old. My forefathers may come from a small farming village 80Km outside of Cairo, but I don’t have chickens in my balcony, and I’m guessing you don’t either.

So, don’t make yourself crazy by trying to poach an egg like all those cooking shows tell you. Instead, get a piece of Clingfilm wrap and wipe it down with a couple of drops of oil. Line the inside of a small cup with the Clingfilm, oil side facing inward, and crack your egg into it. Gather the ends into a nice little egg parcel, and tie it off. Drop it in simmering water for 3-4 minutes, and you (and your egg yolks) are golden.

The recipe for the Rosti is pretty simple:

 Dice a medium sized Potato. Put in a pot of cold water, add a TSP of salt, and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.

 Meanwhile, thinly slice 2 green onions. Separate it into two piles: All the white onion slices will be used for the initial sauté, and the chopped green scallions will be added in at the very end.

 Roughly chop 6 slices of Air Dried Grison Beef (available from Swiss Chef). Or you can use Bresaola from Petro Market in Mohandessin (Tel# 02-3345-0073).

 In a non-stick pan, melt 2TBSP rendered beef stock fat (or butter, if you don’t have it) over a medium heat. Add onions. After 2 minutes, add the chopped cured beef. Mix it all well, tossing and stirring constantly.  Drain the potatoes of all the water, but keep it in its pot – we want the residual heat of the pot to dry out the rest of the moisture that’s on the potatoes. Give it a good shake, enough to break up some of the potato pieces and rough up the surfaces. Tip this into your sauté pan.

 Turn the heat up, and incorporate the potato with the sautéed beef and onions. Add a dash of pepper, and more butter if it’s drying out. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the potatoes will have turned a really nice golden brown color, but the onions and beef bits will not be burnt, so you’’ see deep red bits of beef mixed in with golden brown potato.

 Add the remaining green onions, and stir for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat, and spoon the potato mixture into moulds, lightly pressing down so it keeps it shape.

 Top off with some chopped chives, and your poached egg. Devour. Cooking Time 10 Minutes


About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

One Response to Potato Rosti and the Perfect Poached Egg.

  1. Rehaam says:

    I’ve always had a lot of success poaching eggs in Egypt. They always come out just fine despite the fact that our eggs are never fresh. Go figure.

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