Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crispy Konafah Egg & Mesclun

Not long after they first opened, we enjoyed a delicious evening at Table 9. On the delectable menu was a hen's egg on porcini mushrooms three ways. It was the porcini that made me choose the dish, yet it was the egg that contributed highly to the "wow" factor. This soft boiled and lightly panko- breaded egg oozed its runny yolk lip-smacking deliciously over the fresh, dried, and pureed porcini.

Inspiration is the base ingredient of any dish. And boy did that egg inspire me. For the longest time in my day dreams, I could still taste that heavenly combination of flavors and textures. It also inspired me to fumble around in the kitchen boiling eggs and rolling them in konafah (shredded filo pastry that looks like vermicelli). The konafah-idea had been sitting in my mind for a while, ever since the "hairy prawns" I had at Yo Sushi.

I remember asking a French chef once, many years ago, what was "mesclun", my asking tone suggesting I expected a detailed epicurean explanation. "Ah bon, mais... mesclun... c'est... mesclun." It was another chef who elaborated that "mesclun" is derived from the Proven├žal dialect (mescla) for mixed. Mesclun is said to originate in the Provence near Nice as a mix of the young leaves and shoots of wild plants. In culinary terms, mesclun is a mixture of young salad and herb leaves, each bringing its own taste quality to the mix: a little peppery, refreshing, herbal, or a little bitter. Mesclun is now a world-wide household name for any mixture of young salad leaves - which is where the line should be drawn. Even if the name literally does mean "mixed", not any "mixed salad" is a mesclun. 

In Dubai, when I am in the mood to mescla, I go for the local, peppery rocket (also known as rucola, arugula, or roquette), I like to add aromatic herb leaves (like lemon basil or fennel dill). And I love the taste and color combination of the small, bright-green savory leaves of purslane, as well as the red-purple, spinach-like small leaves of red orach. Obviously, mood is not all that determines a mix: so does availability of fresh young salad.


Crispy Konafah Egg and Mesclun
(recipe for 4)

4 soft boiled eggs
1 sheet of konafah (I get it frozen)
mesclun ready-mixed, or mix young salad leaves yourself

To boil the eggs:
It took me several attempts to achieve a boiled egg where the white outside was firm, yet inside the yolk was runny. And didn't burst the moment I shelled the egg. The word "therapeutic" sprang to mind as I patiently started over when the egg was not of a desired texture. I was happy with eggs that had a soft, slightly runny yolk, and did not break open the moment I shelled the egg. It is still a very fragile egg, so handle carefully. Using medium-sized eggs, I tried two methods. First I boiled the eggs from cold (tap-water temperature) for 7 minutes exactly (it took about five minutes for the water to come to a boil). When 7 minutes were up, I dunked the eggs in ice cold water and started shelling them immediately. For the other method, I cooked the eggs for 3 minutes in boiling water. Both methods yielded firm egg whites with runny egg yolks. If you like the idea, but cannot be bothered with fragile eggs, just boil them a little longer. A boiled egg in a crispy fried "coat" is always nice to eat, with or without runny yolk.

The pastry:
Konafah shreds easily (after all, it is shredded filo pastry). To roll the egg in the pastry, you need the konafah to be a little moist (which it is when you use it barely defrosted. I tried it recently with dry and well-defrosted konafah, and it was just a nightmare: the spriggy pastry went every direction, and it just would not sit. So, a little moisture if the konafah is too dry!). Place a rectangular amount of the pastry on a work surface. Place a boiled egg three-quarts down the end and roll the pastry around the egg carefully. Proceed until all eggs are rolled. Deep-fry briefly (it takes only 2-3 minutes for the konafah pastry to crisp up and turn golden), drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately alongside the mesclun (do not place on top of the mesclun: the tender leaves will wilt).

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp (red wine) vinegar
1/2 tsp honey (optional: if you like a hint of sweetness with the savory egg)
olive oil
salt to taste

In a bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, lemon juice and vinegar. Slowly pour in olive oil and continue to whisk until the emulsion binds and you have a creamy looking, smooth vinaigrette.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the mesclun just before serving. As the eggs are not seasoned, add a little salt to the opened egg before you eat it. 

as a vegetarian main course, it goes wonderful with green asparagus, roasted sweet potatoes, and a mustard bechamel


  1. A great way to utilize the konafah. Now imagining wrapping it around shrimp and other possibilities.

    1. I think that's what they do with the "hairy prawn" at Yo's Sushi!