Brunch Standard: Emeril's Eggs Florentine

Eggs Florentine have been all the rage since a recent episode of Bravo's Top Chef. During the Elimination Challenge contestants had to do a deconstruction of a classic dish. Chef Michael Isabella's task was Eggs Florentine.

Now the average home cook doesn't have calcium chloride and sodium alginate in their pantry and the last time I checked very few suburban kitchens had emersion cookers in them. So rather than trying a Deconstructed Eggs Florentin most of us should stick with the classic. Eggs Florentine is a staple of most Third Coast brunches and few have a better recipe than New Orleans' Emeril Legasse with its luxurious Sauce Morney and Crispy Potato Pancakes so I dug up his from the Food Network web site. Enjoy:

Eggs Florentine
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2004

Prep Time:40 minInactive Prep Time:hr minCook Time:30 minLevel:
2 servings.Ingredients
•Sauteed Spinach, recipe follows
•Mornay Sauce, recipe follows
•Crispy Potato Cakes, recipe follows
•4 large eggs
•1 tablespoon white vinegar
•1 teaspoon salt
•Freshly ground black pepper
•2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Prepare the Sauteed Spinach and keep warm while you prepare the remaining components. Prepare the Mornay Sauce and keep warm while you prepare the remaining components. Prepare the Crispy Potato Cakes and keep warm in the oven while you poach the eggs.

To poach the eggs: break the eggs into individual saucers or cups. Fill a medium skillet halfway with water. Add the vinegar and salt and bring to a boil. Pour eggs into water, cover the skillet and remove from the heat. Allow to sit 4 to 5 minutes. When the eggs are ready, divide the potato cakes evenly between 2 dinner plates and top each with some of the creamed spinach. Remove the eggs from the skillet with a slotted spoon and gently place on top of the creamed spinach and potato cakes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Ladle some of the Mornay Sauce over the eggs and spinach, garnish with parsley, and serve.

Sauteed Spinach:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1 pound spinach, washed, tough stems removed

Salt and freshly grated white pepper

Pinch grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add the spinach and saute, stirring to wilt and combine with the shallots. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch freshly ground nutmeg, to taste.

Mornay Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch white pepper

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 ounce grated cheese, such as Swiss, Gruyere, or Emmenthaler

In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is pale yellow and frothy, about 1 minute. Do not allow the roux to brown. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese and whisk until melted. If the sauce seems too thick, thin with a little milk.

Use sauce immediately or refrigerate, surface covered with plastic wrap, for several days in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 cup

Crispy Potato Pancakes:
3/4 pound russet potatoes (about 1 large)

4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

Peel the potato and put in cold water. Using a mandoline, grater, or food processor, coarsely grate the potato. Place in a fine-mesh sieve or strainer and squeeze out all of the potato liquid over a bowl. After the starch has settled to the bottom of the bowl, carefully pour off the clear liquid, reserving the starch. Add the grated potato to the starch in the bowl, along with the reserved crumbled bacon, egg, salt and pepper.

Heat a nonstick pan with a small amount of oil in the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, take about one-quarter of the potato mixture in the palm of your hand and, using the other hand, flatten and squeeze to remove any excess liquid. Place the potato mixture in the heated pan and cook, pressing down with a spatula to flatten, until crispy and golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining potato cakes.
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