kitchen firsts: poached egg sandwiches with spinach, tomato and cheese
The kitchen first this time is not a new ingredient, but instead the conquering of a kitchen technique: the poached egg, no cheatsies! Up until now, whenever I was called on to create a poached egg I would simply reach for my handy dandy egg-poaching device, let the eggs cook in their little metal cups, and then slide them out, looking all freakishly disc-shaped. I am not a fan of runny yolks, so poached eggs are not a huge deal for me and I was happy enough with this arrangement as it allowed me to quickly and easily make poached eggs for Stephen. But, the more I cook and blog, the more I realize how obsessed food people are with poached eggs, so it kind of bothered me that I wasn’t able to create a normal-looking, old fashioned poached egg in a water bath. Enter my new favorite cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking For Two: 2010, and I finally found a poached egg sandwich recipe that I could master, and even enjoy.
Before I bought the cheater egg-poaching device, I tried once or twice to make poached eggs by using a ladle in a large pot of water, and I once tried just cracking the egg straight into a giant pot of water. I found the ladle method to be quite clumsy, and the cracking it into a deep pot of water thing made the whites go everywhere, resulting in a horribly messy, watery egg gloop. It was at that moment that I went out and bought the little poaching contraption, which works just fine but produces those all-too-identical cup shapes. What the Test Kitchen cookbook brought to the table was the addition of vinegar to the poaching liquid (as a seasoning and as a stabilizer for the yolk), which I’d heard of but never tried, the idea of poaching in a small skillet rather than a deep saucepan so that the eggs have less distance to fall and can’t stray so much, and the idea of actually taking that skillet off the heat as soon as you add the eggs and letting them cook in a more stable environment. In practice, this method was quite easy, and I found that it took a lot of the guesswork and mess out of the process for me. I was even a little clumsy with it the first time and they still came out beautifully, so I think that in the future the poaching will be even more seamless.
So, once you’ve poached a lovely egg, where to put it? We had some English muffins to use up, so we went for the whole open-face sandwich idea, borrowing from the Test Kitchen cookbook the idea of combining the poached egg with tomato, spinach, and chevre (we also tried half of the sandwiches with sharp cheddar, and liked that perhaps even more than the chevre). I love a good breakfast for dinner, and this one is great for a weeknight. It’s quick and simple, and compared to an eggs benedict sort of situation or a egg meat and cheese sandwich, it’s pretty light. It’s also very adaptable; you can use any kind of cheese you want, and you can go wild with varying the other ingredients of the sandwich– instead of the spinach-tomato-chevre version, why not try bacon egg and cheddar, or perhaps tomato avocado and pepperjack? Add salsa, or go the extra mile and make some hollandaise for it! The possibilities are endless, and the most important part of the recipe, at least for me, is the fact that it gives you an excuse to practice and show off your awesome, fool-proof new way to poach eggs.
Poached Egg Sandwiches with Spinach, Tomato and Cheese
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking for Two: 2010
Serves 2 (two open-face sandwiches per person)
2 english muffins, split
1 small round of creamy chevre (about 2 oz) + drizzle of olive oil + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice + fresh black pepper, -OR-
4 english-muffin sized slices of sharp cheddar
1 medium tomato, cored and sliced into 4 thick slices
1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large handfuls baby spinach
1 tsp salt
2 T white vinegar
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, lightly toast your English muffin halves. While they’re toasting, slice your cheddar cheese or mix the chevre with olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper in a small bowl. When the muffins are toasted, spread them with cheese, and top each with a tomato slice. Then place them on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven to keep warm.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium, and then add the shallot and a pinch of salt and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds, before adding the spinach. Cook the spinach gently until it’s wilted evenly, about a minute, and then remove it from the heat. Use tongs to divide the spinach evenly among the English muffin halves atop the tomatoes, squeezing out any excess liquid into the pan. Return the muffins to the oven to keep warm.
Wipe out the skillet, then fill it near to the brim with water. Add the vinegar and 1 tsp salt, and bring to a boil. While it comes to the boil, crack your eggs into two small teacups, bowls, or ramekins; 2 eggs in each cup. The eggs will poach next to each other, but can easily be separated once they’re cooked, and it’s important to only be pouring out of two cups since you only have two hands and want all the eggs to go in at the same time. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and make sure you have a nice simmer. When you’re ready, lower the teacups to the water’s surface and gently tip the eggs into the skillet simultaneously. Remove the skillet from the heat, cover, and leave the eggs to poach for 4-5 minutes depending on how runny you like the yolk (4 minutes=oozing yolk, 5 minutes=firmer, but not completely set). Remove the eggs quickly but gently with a slotted spoon so they can drain, then lay them gently on top of each English muffin. Season with salt and pepper and serve!