Oeufs Pontaillac (from I Know How to Cook, Mathiot 1932)
Posh sausage and eggs seemed like a great place to start for my first recipe. I can’t resist breaking into the juicy plump yoke of a fried egg and soaking up its spilled deliciousness with an equally juicy, plump and delicious sausage. It’s a very deep, almost fundamental, pleasure. Like a bassline, or sex.
The recipe also appeared familiar; just add chips for an English classic, comforting; the night before going back to work after the Christmas holidays has to be the most dismal of the year, and simple; best not to cook myself into a state of shock on Day 1.
I was lulled into a false sense of security with its sausage-and-eggishness.
First of all, I have to make the sauce tomate. Would it were that this was a simple act of a tin of chopped tomatoes and a chopped onion. Oh no, that’s not the French way apparently. First I had to pulp down some quartered tomatoes to make a pathetically-sized tomato-y drizzle glooping through the sieve. So far so less-than-average. But then I met the words “Prepare a blond roux“. There’s something about the word ROUX that strikes fear in my heart, whether it’s because I’ve heard somewhere back in the mists of time that it was a notoriously tough sauce to get right, or whether it’s because I’ve watched too many episodes of Masterchef: The Professionals and watched Michel Roux Jnr’s angry beady eyes reduce professional chefs to wrecks. The butter has to be at a particular point of almost smoking when you add the flour until it becomes sand in the pan and you’re convinced you’ve got it all wrong. Add the stock slowly, stirring continuously to avoid the ultimate sauce cook’s nightmare scenario: lumps. I think they strip you of French nationality if you make lumpy sauces over there.
Sure I have already buggered this up royally, I mix in the tomato, diced veg and herbs and leave to simmer while I get on with the frying, one eye suspiciously surveying the sauce tomate at all times.
As I serve the pile of cat vomit, sorry, sauce tomate, onto the sausages and eggs, I know I’ve got that bloody sauce wrong. But as I taste it, it’s…well… yum. A little, ahem, rustic looking in comparison to the stylised photo in the book, but for my first recipe it’s a triumph because it tastes damn good. Hooray!