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At SHO Shaun Hergatt, the menu understates things a bit. It refers to one of chef Shaun Hergatt's signature dishes simply as a "slow poached egg with cauliflower purée." But Hergatt has a more regal name for it: The Golden Egg, a far more appropriate title for such a luxurious dish incorporating a poached egg with caviar and a gold leaf, all ensconced in a velvety purée. After the jump, see how Hergatt brings this exquisite and whimsical dish to the table.
Hergatt, who was born in Australia to a Finnish mother and an American father, has an equally diverse sense of culinary expression. As a classically trained chef, Hergatt draws heavily on French technique but also incorporates his love of the "clean flavors" in Asian cuisine as well as the coastal cooking of his native Cairns, Australia. The menu at SHO is positively awash with fish and seafood, which Hergatt has an uncanny ability for preparing.
But he is equally comfortable with land-based proteins, such as beef, veal, duck, and rabbit. Knowing how much most Australians love beef, I asked if he, despite his coastal moorings, also has carnivorous tendencies. "Of course I do, look at me!" he quipped, referring to his broad, rugby player-like frame (which completely belies the precise, delicate nature of the food he produces). Unable to decide between featuring an earthbound or aquatic based protein I decided on both choosing the Golden Egg which after all has eggs from both land and sea.
To prepare the egg, Hergatt lays down a piece of plastic wrap and coats it with truffle oil.
Using a reclaimed segment of an egg tray to serve as a mold, Hergatt lines the cup with the oiled plastic wrap.
Next he breaks the egg shell, gently releasing the contents into the plastic and bringing the four corners of the wrap together. He binds them to form a neat little packet. The wrapped egg is refrigerated overnight.
The cooled egg is poached in salted water for two minutes, then submerged in an ice bath to stem the cooking.
The egg is then removed from the plastic wrap and gently placed on a plate. When cooked, the wrapped egg looks like mozzarella but once opened, it starts to resemble an albino pumpkin with deep ridges segmenting the quivering sphere.
The purée ingredients: cauliflower (cleaned and broken into even-sized florets), onion, garlic, heavy cream, butter, salt and pepper.
Hergatt heats butter over medium heat in a saucepan and once hot, adds onions and garlic, aggressively seasoning them before lowering the heat. He sweats the onions until they become translucent.
The cauliflower is added along with heavy cream. It's braised for about 15 minutes, until tender.
Once cooled slightly, the mixture is puréed in a blender then passed through a chinois.
The purée goes back into the saucepan. If necessary, Hergatt adds cream to adjust the consistency.
An edible gold leaf adds a decorative touch. The dish is essentially white-on-white with a dollop of black in the form of the caviar. The gold leaf adds a sense of luxury.
A quenelle of black caviar goes on top of the egg.
The purée is poured around the egg, tableside.
The finished dish is beautiful. The perfectly formed egg—glistening in the light reflected by the gold leaf—appears to float in the viscous mote of cauliflower purée. When the spoon breaks the fragile egg, it causes a rupture that momentarily wells with yellow yoke before it seeps out, as if by osmosis, into the purée.
Taking a bite doesn't take away from the wonderment. The white of the egg is perfectly cooked—solid but still quivering—and is intensely perfumed by the earthiness of the truffle oil. The creamy yolk and buttery puree balance the brininess of the caviar. The dish is perfectly conceived and executed.
The Golden Egg is $15 as a supplement to the dinner prix-fixe menu.