Could you imagine cutting into the puff of a savory cheese soufflé only to find a warm poached egg on a bed of spinach?
Now that is one dramatic dish! The original recipe comes from Julia Child who made creamed spinach from scratch. With a nod to less calories and more convenience, I use frozen chopped spinach seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. The second recipe, adapted from Chef Jacky Robert of Petit Robert Bistro in Boston, makes a wonderful starter.
Either dish would be a knock-out during the holidays (and, of course, far, far beyond…)
ABOUT THE POACHED EGGS…
Remember that in both recipes the eggs will also spend time in the oven or a frying pan, so poach them a little shy of what you would ordinarily do. Add a few drops of white vinegar (no salt) to your simmering water and make sure the eggs are strictly fresh so they will keep their shape.
Transfer the poached eggs carefully with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice-cold water to stop their cooking. Later, you will gently remove the eggs from the cold water, draining each on a folded towel.
POACHED EGGS FLORENTINE IN CHEESE SOUFFLE
6 large eggs, poached 3-1/2-minutes, then cooled in a large bowl of ice cold water
1-1/2 cups of cooked frozen chopped spinach
6 croutons (3-inch rounds of white bread previously sautéed in melted butter until toasted)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup whole milk
Salt, pepper and grated nutmeg
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites (2/3 cup) at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup coarsely grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese plus 2 tablespoons for decoration
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a flat baking dish large enough to hold the 6 croutons. Mound 2 to 3 spoonfuls of spinach on each and top with a well-drained poached egg. Lightly salt and pepper.
To make the soufflé, place the flour in a large saucepan off heat and gradually whisk in 3/4 cup of milk. Then whisk over high heat until sauce thickens and comes to a boil. (Do not let mixture burn on the bottom of the pan.) Sauce should be very thick but not stiff. Thin out, if necessary, with part of the remaining milk. Beat in the 4 egg yolks, salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat egg whites slowly in a clean dry bowl until they begin to foam; then beat in salt and cream of tartar. Gradually increase speed until stiff peaks are formed. Stir 1/4 of the beaten whites into the sauce base, and delicately fold in the rest along with the grated cheese. Mound the soufflé mixture over each egg and top with a pinch of the grated cheese.
Set baking dish immediately in the upper third of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until soufflé has puffed and browned.
Serve at once with French bread and a glass of Pouilly Fuissé.
PANKO-CRUSTED POACHED EGG with ARUGULA SALAD (6 servings)
This recipe makes 6 starters. For a main course, serve 2 eggs per person on a larger arugula salad.
6 cups baby arugula, crisped in the fridge
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
6 large eggs, lightly poached for 3-1/2-minutes in simmering water with a drop or 2 of white vinegar; then cooled in ice water
3 cups Japanese panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons canola oil
6 strips lean bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
Dress the arugula with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste. Divide among 6 salad plates and set aside.
Lift poached eggs gently out of their cold water bath and drain well on a folded towel. Carefully roll each egg in a pile of panko until completely coated.
Heat butter and oil in a frying pan and fry eggs, turning, until they are golden. Place eggs over the greens, sprinkle with salt and pepper and garnish with crisp bacon. Serve immediately.