At some point in our almost-two years of marriage, Johnny and I realized and accepted the fact that we have the television taste of people much older than us. Watching Jeopardy! at 7:30 makes any day better, and we had a long run of a Friday night in-house date to watch Dateline (spoiler: the husband always did it, and he was always having an affair). Living so close to the home of PBS means that our limited channels include 4 PBS stations, so we’ve also gotten familiar with Cook’s Country, Julia Child, and Jacques Pepin. The latter is where today’s recipe comes from (slightly edited).
I was skeptical at first (I think it’s the French accent), but Johnny cajoled me into trying Mollet Eggs Florentine, and we’re pretty much hooked. They seem much more complicated than they really are – it’s just a matter of three separate but simple parts: eggs, spinach, and sauce. They make a delicious and filling addition to brunch, or on their own for dinner. Equally good with meat or without, they can be a great Friday option. The recipe is also easy to scale up or down, and can be mostly prepared ahead of time.
Serves 2 hungry people, or 4 as part of a larger brunch
- 9 ounces fresh spinach (or whatever reasonably-sized bag you find)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons grated Swiss cheese (the original recipe calls for Gruyère or Emmenthaler, which are probably superior since they’re made out off dollar bills)
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For Serving (optional):
- 2 English muffins or slices of bread
- Ham or bacon
Bring 4 to 6 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. With a pushpin or thumbtack, prick a small hole in the rounder end of each egg (this will help prevent the shells from cracking during cooking).
Using a slotted spoon, lower the eggs into the boiling water, and let it come back to a simmer. Cook for about 6 minutes.
Pour the water out, run cold water over the eggs, drain again, and shake the pan to crack the eggshells. Cool thoroughly.
Gently shell the eggs (to prevent breaking them) under cold running water. If it’s your husband’s first time peeling eggs, provide a little guidance or just take over and let him do the sauce.
Bring about 1/2 inch of salted water to a boil in a stainless steel pot. Drop the leaves into the boiling water and boil, covered, for about 1 minute, until wilted. Drain the spinach in a colander and immediately run under cold running water to stop the cooking and keep the color. Drain again, pressing on the spinach to extract as much water as possible.
Put the spinach on a chopping block and coarsely chop.
Melt the butter in a skillet over high heat and cook until it turns brown. Add the spinach, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, mix well with a fork, and cook for 2 minutes.
Arrange the spinach in the bottom of an broiler-safe dish large enough to accommodate the eggs (I use a small round cakepan). Sprinkle the Swiss cheese on top, and arrange the cold eggs on the spinach, with a little space between them.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the flour until smooth and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until the mixture froths, without browning. Add the half-and-half, whipping constantly with a whisk, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Stir in the seasonings (but not the cheese) and continue cooking over low heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly with the whisk. Cool for 6 to 8 minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Add the egg yolk to the sauce, whisking very fast and hard.
Coat the eggs with the sauce and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese while making your “cheese-grating face.” Place under the hot broiler (not too close, so the eggs have a chance to get hot inside) for 5 minutes, or until the sauce is nicely browned.
While the eggs are cooking, make your toast (English muffins are best). You could butter it if you’re so inclined, but given the sauce you’re about to add, even I think that’s overkill. Heat your meat, if using. When the sauce is dappled with brown, remove from over and serve immediately over bread and meat. Serve immediately and sigh happily.