Jun 15th, 2008 by Jonny
On almost every diner breakfast menu in the United States you’ll find eggs florentine – a breakfast dish of poached eggs over wilted spinach sitting on half a toasted English muffin (we’ll get into the Englishness of English muffins at another time) and dressed with a hollandaise or bechamel sauce. What makes them Florentine or in the style of Florence, is the spinach, otherwise they’d be just poached eggs on toast or, perhaps, eggs benedict given the sauce.
In Florence, and other parts of Tuscany, eggs florentine are not typically eaten at breakfast time, the Tuscans preferring the simplicity of coffee and a pastry or perhaps a grilled slice of saltless Tuscan bread, rubbed with garlic and olive oil. However, the basic notion of eggs and spinach is authentically Tuscan, and instead of poached eggs over wilted spinach, they are often baked together in a creamy, nutmeggy sauce and eaten as a side dish to a grilled or roasted meat.
And, with a lot of things we do on our blog, we feel the authentic version is better than the knock-offs and happily spinach is in season right now, so it’s both authentic and seasonal.
Initially, I was skeptical that this dish would be any good because spinach dishes are usually not that flavorful – with the spinach not offering much in the way of an identifiable taste. Not in this case though, where the spinach actually provides all the flavor and, surprisingly, a lot of almost crunchy texture, and the cream, eggs and butter provide the richness.
This, as an accompaniment to a great, rare bistecca alla fiorentina, would make for a delicious and decadent dinner, not dissimilar to the traditional American steakhouse classic of steak with a side of creamed spinach, but the addition of the eggs to this dish really puts it over the edge. You really can’t go wrong.
Baked Spinach with Eggs
- 1lb (500g) spinach, washed, but with stems on
1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 medium eggs
1tbsp unsalted butter1tbsp grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese1tsp freshly grated nutmegsalt and black pepper to taste
- Pre-heat your oven to 350F / 175C.In a large saute pan, wilt the spinach gently in the butter. Three to four minutes is all it should really take.Then strain-off the spinach juices and reserve. Place spinach to a buttered oven-proof baking dish and distribute evenly.Add spinach juices and half the cream back in your pan and over low heat allow to reduce a little – until the cream is a pale green and starting to thicken. Then add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.Pour the rest of the cream over the spinach and make indentations in the spinach for your eggs. Crack eggs into indentations, then pour over the cream and spinach juice mixture before sprinkling the whole thing with parmesan cheese and some extra black pepper.Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbling and eggs are firm. Allow to come to room temperature before serving with your favorite cut of steak.
Thanks to Maxine Clark, The Flavors of Tuscany: Recipes from the Heart of Italy, from which this recipe was adapted.
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