Eggs Poached in Red Wine: Best Hangover Dish Ever
Oeufs en couille d’âne (aka donkey ball eggs) for New Year's Day
I never thought that my recent trip to the Loire Valley would result in the ideal New Year’s Day hangover dish. But here we are, with a newsletter about oeufs en couille d’âne, eggs poached in red wine. It’s a specialty of the Berry region (which includes Sancerre) and translates roughly to “donkey ball eggs” — I guess because they look like…a donkey’s balls? Ehhh.
Eggs poached in red wine is a classic in various parts of France. Bill Buford wrote earlier this year about oeufs en meurette, a specialty in Burgundy. In the accompanying video, Buford’s teenage son takes one look at the final dish and says, “Looks like a crime scene.”
Ok, so eggs poached in red wine maybe isn’t aesthetically pleasing to everyone. But I swear, it’s pretty damn delicious. What can possibly be wrong with a slab of bacon, a pile of chopped shallots, most of a bottle of red wine, fresh herbs, and perfectly cooked eggs? Nothing. It’s perfect.
The key difference between Loire donkey ball eggs and Burgundy oeufs en meurette is that the Loire version is cooked entirely in one pan, with each ingredient layered in and the eggs cracked and poached into the wine sauce.
I’m calling this a hangover dish, but the first time I ate oeufs en couille d’âne was at a wonderful restaurant in the village of Sancerre called Auberge l’Écurie—the more casual, sister restaurant to the Michellin-starred La Tour. There, oeufs en couille d’âne was served as an appetizer; I ate it before my main dish of tête au veau, calf’s head. (So, yes, just part of a light meal).
Back home, I’ve recently made it for dinner several times, paired with my favorite everyday red, Loire cabernet franc. One of the under-$20 standards in my house is Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges: bright, energetic, full of berry, violet, and herb, along with more savory notes of black olive and tomato, with a cool, chalky finish. I’ve also been really happy with the 2020 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Trinch: fresh and juicy, with brambly, herbal aromas of blackberry with anise and tarragon, with great structure and acidity on the palate.
Now, the big question at this point will likely be: Do I use one of these really nice Loire cab francs in the donkey ball eggs? Honestly, I wouldn’t. The common wisdom is to never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink by itself, and that’s certainly true. But “drinkable” conveys a wide range. Remember, you’re using at least two-thirds of a bottle in this recipe. I have made the dish enough times by now to tell you: So long as it’s a decent, palatable red, it really doesn’t make much difference what you use.
This is the time to use the middling wine that a well-meaning friend or family member (who doesn’t know much about wine) gifted you. Or perhaps you’ve got a leftover bottle that’s still mostly full from your New Year’s Eve revelry. In any case, save your good stuff to pair. Happy New Year!
Oeufs en couille d’âne (“donkey ball” eggs)
5 ounces bacon, chopped into lardons
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons flour
500 ml of red wine (2/3 bottle; preferably one you don’t plan to enjoy)
Bundle of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper
4 eggs (let come to room temperature)
Four slices of baguette for toast
Brown the bacon a large skillet. Add shallots and let brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the wine, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and simmer on medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. While simmering, toast the bread and set into bowls.
Break the eggs and carefully slip into pockets in the sauce, then poach for 2-3 minutes. When just firm and still runny inside, scoop the egg along with a generous amount of wine sauce and serve atop the toasted bread. Garnish with chopped parsley.