On our last two visits to New York City, Tawn and I have fallen in love with a small panini shop and wine bar in Greenwich Village called ‘ino. The ambience is fantastic, the service is friendly, and most importantly the food is good. After buying their cookbook on my last visit, I’ve eagerly awaited the opportunity to try and recreate their most perfect menu item: the truffled egg toast.
Perfect for breakfast, perfect for lunch, perfect for dinner, the truffled egg toast (original pictured above) is a thick slick of white bread, lightly toasted, with a pair of egg yolks gently baked in a well in the center of the toast while Fontina cheese melts along the edges. Afterwards, it is drizzled with truffle oil and generously salted and peppered. Lightly grilled asparagus provide the perfect condiment.
It is hard for me to convey in words just how wonderful the combination of flavors is: Truffle, egg, cheese, and asparagus just go together really well.
The big problem I faced here in Thailand was finding a loaf of bread that isn’t sliced. I could bake it myself, but the ideal bread for this is a white sandwich bread, not something rustic like my homemade bread turns out. Finally, Tawn spoke with a manager of a bakery and they said we could order unsliced loaves a day in advance. Once we got the bread home, I realized it was a little too airy, sweet, and eggy – kind of like Portuguese sweet bread – to be ideal. But I decided to press ahead with the experiment.
After toasting the bread lightly in the oven, I used a serrated knife to cut a 2-inch square in the middle of each slice, cutting about halfway into the 1-inch thick bread. Then, using the handle of the knife, I tamped the bread down, forming a well.
The next step was to line the edges of the toast with Fontina cheese. Except, in cheese-unfriendly Thailand, I couldn’t find Fontina so substituted Gouda. Cheese is very expensive here and the types you find are very inconsistent. A few months ago, I saw Fontina. But when I went to the store this time, there was none.
In the middle of the well I put the yolks of two eggs. When I first attempted this recipe after our first visit to ‘ino (before we bought the cookbook), I didn’t realize they only used the yolks so when I put a whole egg into the well, it just spilled over the top of the toast. This seems to illustrate the saying, “If all else fails, read the directions.”
Not following directions, I broiled the toast rather than baking it, so the egg set a little firmer than was ideal. That said, upon pulling the toast out of the oven, I stirred the egg with the tip of my knife and it turned out to be plenty runny.
The biggest problem was my truffle oil. This oil has a limited shelf life and the oil we have is over a year old. The strength of the truffle aroma is nearly gone, so we weren’t getting a healthy dose of that heady earthiness that makes truffles so wonderful. Thankfully, we had a jar of black truffle salt on hand, so I liberally sprinkled that on top of the toast.
The conclusion? Well, I don’t think I’m going to put ‘ino to shame anytime soon. But with a little practice, a better choice of bread, cheese, and oil, and more attention to the directions, I think I’ll have a truffle toast worth serving to guests. And considering that the real deal is 9,000 miles away, I think Tawn and I will be able to live with second-best until our next visit to New York!