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Oeufs en Meurette (Poached Eggs with Red Wine Sauce)

1 carrot, peeled and cubed
2 shallots, minced
2 imported bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig of fresh rosemary or tarragon
2 cups full-bodied red wine, such as a Cotes-du-Rhone, Cahors, or Madiran
8 slices French bread or any good homemade bread, cut into 1/2-inch (1.5
cm) thick slices, crusts removed, cut into even 3-inch (7.5 cm) rounds
with a biscuit cutter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce, 15 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons distilled vinegar
8 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-size nonreactive saucepan, combine the carrot, shallots,
bay leaves, minced garlic, rosemary, and wine over high heat. Boil
until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Strain the wine, discard
the vegetables and herbs. (This step can be done well in advance
and the wine refrigerated.)

Preheat the broiler.

Toast the bread on both sides until golden brown. Remove from the
oven and immediately rub on both sides with a cut garlic clove.

Complete the red wine sauce: On a plate, mash the butter and flour
together to form a well-blended paste (beurre manie). In a small
nonreactive saucepan, bring the reduced wine to a simmer. Carefully
whisk in the butter and flour paste, a little at a time, until the
sauce is lightly thickened and glossy. Remove from the heat and
keep warm.

In two shallow 10-inch (25.5 cm) pans, bring 3 inches (7.5 cm) of
water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a boil. Turn off the heat and
immediately break 4 eggs directly into the water in each pan,
carefully opening the shells close to the water's surface, so the
eggs slip into the water in one piece. Immediately cover the pans
with tight-fitting lids to retain the heat. Do not disturb the
pans. Allow the eggs to cook for three minutes before lifting the
lids. The eggs are ready when the whites are opaque and the yolks
are covered with a thin, translucent layer of white.

While the eggs cook, place 2 toasts (croutons) on each of 4 warmed
plates Using a flat, slotted spoon, carefully lift the eggs from
the water and place on top of the croutons. Spoon the wine sauce
all around, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve
immediately, with additional toasted bread, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

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