Francesca gave me a sorpresa one rainy day in September. She had gotten reservations for Chef Marco Stabile’s presentation at the Wine Town kitchen in the upper level of the Mercato Centrale of San Lorenzo.
Marco Stabile is my favorite chef in Florence. I wrote about lunch at Ora d’Aria and Frank Bruni recently remembered a dinner that included a deconstructed panzanella con coniglio affumicato (bread salad with smoked rabbit) in the New York Times.
But that day in September, Chef Stabile was cooking an egg – or, at least, that was the most interesting part for me – to be paired with a duck liver paté, herring caviar, breast meat of a free-range hen, brodo of the same hen, and crunchy buttery bread crumbs.
Now back to the egg. The egg had been laid by one of Paolo Parisi’s hens just days before. These Livornesi hens are famous partially for laying the most expensive eggs in Italy. I’ve eaten them in Chef Stabile’s version of green eggs and ham (egg, purée of broccoli, and pancetta) and, more recently, topping a purée of porcini mushrooms, garnished with a crispy fried slice of the same mushroom.
Chef Sabile prepares the egg by first brushing a large piece of plastic wrap with extra virgin olive oil. He cracks one egg in the center of the oiled sheet and gathers it into a little sack without breaking the yoke. Slowly he tightens the sack around the egg, forcing all of the air out. Finally, he ties a knot in the plastic.
The egg is the last step of this fairly complicated dish – the paté of duck liver takes much longer to make and must cool for hours – waiting until all of the other ingredients are ready before it is dunked in boiling water for exactly 4 minutes. Each ingredient gets a place on the plate and the dish is brought to the table with a small pitcher of hot chicken broth (brodo).
At the Wine Town event, each member of the audience got a plate with the brodo already poured ,which disturbed the presentation a bit, but not too much.
My friend Lynette once gave me a lesson in the perfect dish at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. We were eating a Garlic Flan. The perfect dish, Lynette said, has a pleasing color palette, a diverse texture combination (crunchy, liquid, creamy, chewy, etc.), and a variety of tastes (sweet, salty, sour, etc.). Marco Stabile’s creation of egg, paté, bread crumb, herring egg, chicken breast and broth had all of that – the perfect dish. And delicious, too.