In the 1980s, my husband, Michael, and I purchased a small home in japanese Connecticut and spent quiet weekends there with our younger son. Our city had a inhabitants of about 5,000, and the weekly newspaper reported visitors violations and misplaced pets. When I’d inform my New York City buddies the place we lived, they wouldn’t have a clue. I’d inform them that we had been a few exits from Old Saybrook on I-95 and get a little nod. I’d inform them we had been on the Shoreline, because the stretch of the state that hugs the Long Island Sound is commonly referred to as, and once more I’d get a well mannered, if puzzled, nod. It wasn’t till I discussed the Restaurant du Village, which might have been as proper in the plush French countryside because it was on Main Street in Chester, Conn., that my buddies may place us.
Du Village was the type of restaurant I’d dream about coming throughout on a again street in Burgundy, a place the place everyone seems to be welcomed as household, the place the room hums with the vigorous chatter of friendship and celebration and the place the meals is so satisfying that I’d run a little bit of baguette throughout the plates to seize sauce after which remind myself not to lick my fingers. It was based in 1979 by Priscilla Martel and Charlie van Over, a couple in life and in enterprise, and in the course of the time that they owned du Village — they offered it in 1990 — and nicely earlier than farm-to-table was a pattern, they created a community of farmers, fishermen, growers and producers who introduced them components that had been uncommon then and are nonetheless prized right this moment.
Michael and I may go to du Village solely on a splurge. But in the years because the restaurant was offered, we’ve gotten a style of what we missed, as a result of we’ve develop into good buddies with Priscilla and Charlie, sharing meals at house and, all through the pandemic, recipes and reminiscences. When we may lastly eat collectively, Priscilla cooked us a dinner of dishes that had been on the restaurant’s menu. The most important course was sport hens crapaudine à la diable — spatchcocked birds coated with mustard, impressed by the best way Fernand Point did them at his legendary French restaurant, La Pyramide. And the dessert was a Priscilla specialty, white-wine butter cake. But it was the starter that made me a little teary. When Priscilla put a wicker tray on the desk and introduced that the 5 little dishes had been hors d’oeuvres variées, I used to be again in France on my earliest journeys, again to buddies’ houses, again to Parisian bistros that I cherished — and again to Restaurant du Village.
Priscilla’s tray held a bowl with saucisson, one with lentils, one other with carrot salad and a fourth with beets, nevertheless it was the plate with hard-boiled eggs, halved and lined with satiny mayonnaise, that introduced on the wave of nostalgia.
Oeuf mayo, or egg mayo, seldom seen in the United States, is revered in France, the place there’s even a society to “safeguard” the dish: the Association de sauvegarde de l’oeuf mayonnaise. At Bistrot Paul Bert, a favourite of mine, oeuf mayo was the primary starter out of the kitchen when the restaurant reopened after closing in the course of the pandemic, and the tony Le Voltaire retains oeuf mayo on the menu at zero.9 euros, or about $1.07. A grocery store baguette can price extra.
With solely two components, the dish is hanging in its simplicity. But like so many easy dishes, there are selections to be made alongside the best way. For the eggs, Priscilla begins the cooking by protecting them with water. She brings the water to a boil, reduces the warmth in order that it maintains a sturdy simmer and cooks the eggs for seven minutes, ending with firmish yolks which might be simply a little jammy on the heart. You may need to prepare dinner your eggs a little much less or a little extra, however regardless of the way you prepare dinner them, deal with your self to a little enjoyable: Crack the shells à la Priscilla. After draining the cooked eggs, she places them again in the pan and slips, slides and shakes the pan round to crackle the shells. You can faucet your eggs in opposition to the counter to get the peeling going, nevertheless it’s not practically as amusing.
And then there’s the mayonnaise. Could you are taking your favourite store-bought model, season it extremely and skinny it simply a bit for this dish? Of course you could possibly, however I hope that not less than as soon as, you received’t, that you simply’ll set the blender on the counter, give your self 5 minutes and make Priscilla’s mayo. Mayonnaise, basically egg and oil, has all the time appeared like a miracle of science to me, nevertheless it’s actually an train in restraint. To get a velvety mayonnaise, you whir an egg — Priscilla makes use of a entire egg fairly than simply a yolk (extra typical) — with one thing acidic (right here lemon juice and white-wine vinegar), season it with salt and Dijon mustard after which steadily pour in the oil, going slowly (the restraint half), peeking and scraping halfway and stopping as quickly because the oil is integrated. No matter what number of occasions I make mayonnaise, I all the time really feel like a wizard.
When you’re prepared to assemble this basic, halve the eggs and organize them domes up, which is basic, or down, which is fairly, too, then examine the mayo, first for seasoning after which for consistency. In order for it to slide off the spoon in a regular ribbon, and canopy the egg easily and generously, you’ll in all probability want to skinny it a bit. Just add drops of sizzling water (or lemon juice). Pour the mayonnaise over the eggs, and serve them pristinely plain or select a few go-alongs: perhaps fillets of anchovy or strips of roasted pink pepper; perhaps a sprinkle of snipped chives; perhaps some fried capers.
Put the eggs subsequent to a salad, in order that they make a starter on their very own, or add them to your tray of hors d’oeuvres variées. If you find yourself loving oeuf mayo — Priscilla counts it amongst her desert-island dishes — then perhaps we are able to begin our personal society.
Recipe: Egg Mayo
Dorie Greenspan is an Eat columnist for the journal. She has received 5 James Beard Awards for her cookbooks and writing. Her new cookbook, “Baking With Dorie,” is ready for publication this fall.