This mushrooming season was all about girolles, which was delightful, but I was slightly disappointed not to find more ceps. I probably got about 20 in total of varying sizes. I made powder with the larger ones and used the others in various recipes. One of the simplest and nicest things to do with a small firm cep is to roast it until caramelised and serve it with a soft boiled egg. This is especially lovely when accompanied by some crunchy sourdough toast.
In the restaurant where I used to work, by mid-August when cep season was in full swing, we would typically serve them with scallops, lamb or even lobster. The cep would be sliced in half down the centre before being roasted in a hot pan in duck fat; a decadent technique originally pioneered by Pierre Koffmann, the boldest of the old school French chefs. Once a good caramelisation was achieved, it would be flipped on its back and put in a hot oven for a few minutes. Served with a rich cep puree, it was a special dish.
My version is a bit simpler and does not involve duck fat. I don't use the oven either (as long as the cep is smallish), preferring to baste it in butter after caramelising in hot rapeseed oil. Basting it carefully until it's cooked results in additional caramelisation and the butter turns nutty and brown and provides a simple sauce to drizzle over.
- 2 small ceps, cleaned
- 1 medium egg, at room temperature
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp high quality rapeseed oil
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
Firstly, soft-boil the egg: bring a pan of salted water to the boil and place the eggs in for 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Have a bowl of iced water ready, and plunge the eggs immediately into the cold water when the time is up. Leave for 10 - 15 minutes to allow the eggs to cool down, before peeling off the shell.
Carefully cut each of the ceps in half down the centre, being careful not to let the cap separate from the stem. Add the rapeseed oil to a wide, heavy-based pan and place over a high heat. When the oil is hot, in about 30 seconds, season the ceps all over with sea salt and then place in the pan, cut side down. Fry until golden and caramelised, then flip each piece over. Turn the heat down a bit, then add the butter. When the butter is foaming, baste the ceps continuously for 3 - 5 minutes, until they are tender. When cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Remove the butter from the pan and set aside. This will be the sauce.
Add the spinach to the same pan along with a small pinch of salt, and cook until wilted. Squeeze out any excess water, then place in the centre of the plates. Place half an egg on each plate, along with the ceps. Sprinkle a little cracked black pepper over the dish, and drizzle the butter over.