Buttery Nettles for Breakfast

Buttery Nettles for Breakfast

Last night Chef and I went for drinks (and charcuterie happened) at Waterloo & City. It’s right down the street, making it the perfect place to go if you, say, had a car accident and didn’t want to drive…

Chef’s friend Lou (as I’ve nicknamed him – you can’t guess why, can you?) came and sat down with us for a second. He’s in charge of their charcuterie, among other things, and he does a damn good job. From the saucisson sec to the salami with a hint of truffle and a terrine with mushrooms in the center, they make it all in-house.

As we sat there, downing our Dark & Stormies and devouring the meats, we started talking about the term “self-trained.”

“No chef is truly self-trained,” he said, “Everyone learns from someone.”

As we sat eating, I told Chef that I probably learned more from him in the short time I’ve known him than I did during the three months I worked at a Manhattan restaurant. Over the course of my culinary education I’ve asked several people to show me how to sharpen my knives. Chef was the person who actually showed me – literally, there is a way to see that they are sharp and no one had ever shown me this before.

He also taught me how to make a warmed butter emulsion called a beurre monte. Not long after chef showed me how to make it for the uni dish at the pop-up, I started thinking about ways to adapt it. When I visited Sweden in March of last year, I ate a delicious potato dish with nettles and lots of butter. It occurred to me that I could suspend the nettles by poaching them in the buerre monte. I could then dress the potatoes in the buttery nettles.

It worked splendidly.

Beurre Monte d’orties
Chop about two cups of nettles and finely mince one clove of garlic. Then boil a tiny bit of water in a small saucepan. The pan should barely be covered in water. Add a squirt of lemon juice. Take a large amount of butter from the freezer, ideally, or the fridge, cut it into lumps. Use a whisk to add the butter piece by piece. As the first piece melts, the emulsion should start to form. You want to hold that emulsion, so reduce the heat and slowly add the pats of butter one at a time until you have a thick buttery sauce the consistency of hollandaise. Add the nettles and the garlic. Salt to taste. I also added a two dashes of white pepper and two dashes of black pepper and a bit more lemon juice. To keep the sauce warm but not allow it to separate, reduce the potato water to a low simmer and place the whole saucepan inside the pot.

I then boiled a handful of potatoes in salt water, transferred them to a hot greased skillet and mash them with the bottom of a saucepan, or something large and heavy. Flip the mashed potatoes after 1-2 minutes. Fry an egg.

Lay the egg on the plate, beside or on top of the potatoes. Cover with sauce. You will want a lot of it. I happened to have candied jalapeno peppers, so I put those on top, too. Salt to taste.

After breakfast, take the remaining butter, pour it into a container and put it in the freezer. Cooling it quickly will prevent the butter and water from separating. You can move it to the fridge once it’s chilled. It’s great for buttering tortillas or bread, or putting on top of steamed vegetables.