For short ribs:
Make a bouquet garni by laying the bacon strip on a flat surface. Arrange the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and celery stalk on one end of the bacon strip. Roll up the bacon. Tie the bouquet garni with kitchen string.
Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a deep baking dish and brown nicely on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a plate and discard all but 3 tablespoons of fat from pan. Add the carrots, onion, garlic, shallots and black peppercorns to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for two minutes. Add the bouquet garni, wine and port. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by 2/3, about 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Return the ribs to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot loosely with foil and place in the oven.
Bake for 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork. Allow to cool and cut into 12, 2-inch squares.
For spinach and mushroom mixture:
In a medium size saucepot set over medium heat, add the heavy cream and allow to reduce by half, about 7 to 8 minutes. Set a large sauté pan over high heat and add spinach and sauté, making sure the spinach stays green in color, about 2 minutes (if pan is not large enough, this can be done in multiple batches). Season the cooked spinach with salt and pepper and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. Allow to cool.
Transfer spinach to a colander and press firmly to allow any juices and excess water to drain. Transfer ¼ of the spinach to a blender and puree until smooth. Slowly add all the brown butter and reduced heavy cream. Continue to puree until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until caramelized, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the remaining sautéed spinach and cook until warmed through. Carefully add the spinach puree and fold in the Fontina cheese. Cook until cheese is fully melted and season with salt and pepper.
For truffled mushroom hollandaise:
Lightly brown the butter, add shallots, garlic and mushrooms, and cook until browned. Add the brandy, cook until reduced to a syrup. Cover with chicken stock, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, reducing by half.
Remove the thyme sprigs and discard, placing all remaining ingredients in a blender. Add the sage leaf and puree until smooth. Place a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water. Whisk the egg yolks until they become light yellow in color and begin to froth, about 5 minutes.
Warm the clarified butter and slowly add to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Add reserved mushroom puree and finish with chopped truffles and truffle oil to taste.
(makes 12 popovers)
Place a 6-cup popover pan in the bottom third of an oven. Place a baking sheet on the rack underneath to catch any drips. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the milk until small bubbles form around the edges. Put the flour and salt in a fine-mesh sieve and sift onto a sheet of waxed paper. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t cook, then gradually whisk in the flour mixture until almost smooth.
Remove the popover pan from the oven and spray the cups with nonstick vegetable spray. Fill the prepared cups about three-fourths full with batter and sprinkle each with 1/2 oz. cheese.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees. Continue baking until the popovers are browned and puffed, 30 minutes more; do not open the oven after rotating the pan.
Invert the pan and remove the popovers. Serve immediately. Using a paper towel, wipe out the excess fat from the popover cups. Heat the pan in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat to bake the remaining batter.
Halve the popovers, lengthwise. Warm the spinach and mushroom mixture, and spoon into each popover half, until about 60 percent full. Reheat short ribs in a sauté pan set over medium-high heat until crispy. Evenly distribute over each spinach and mushroom mixture.
Poach the eggs and carefully transfer to over the short ribs, so that each popover half is topped with an egg. Cover each egg with a spoonful of mushroom hollandaise. Garnish with chives and watercress. Serve immediately.