Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sunday Brunch...Baked Eggs Florentine

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This is one of the easiest egg dishes to prepare and one of the most sublime.  Contrary to what you may be served these days, the traditional recipe for Eggs Florentine does not include English muffins or Hollandaise Sauce.  The classic Uova alla Fiorentina, a specialty of Florence, are lightly poached eggs served on a bed of spinach, which has been first boiled and sauteed in butter, and baked in a buttered dish. Mornay sauce is poured over it then it is sprinkled with grated cheese and bread crumbs and baked in the oven.

I was inspired to post this recipe while reading one of the best books ever written on Italian food, The Food of Italy by Waverly Root. Mr. Root, considered one of the major writers on cuisine in his time, passed away in 1982.  During his life he was a foreign correspondent in Europe for fifty years,  representing the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Time and UPI.  He also contributed regularly to the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and Gourmet Magazine. 

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Italian cuisine and indispensable for those wishing to capture the subtleties of the Italian palate in his or her kitchen. You will also learn many interesting things such as...the origins of petit pois!  Referred to all over the word by their French name, these tiny tender peas, piselli novelli,  came to France from Genoa in 1660 as a present for Louis XIV.  They took the country by storm and the rest, as they say, is history.  I didn't know that, did you?

I haven't had real Eggs Florentine in a long time and reading about it brought memories of lunch at my grandmother's house in Havana in the fifties.  Her mother was French and she loved all things baked and gratinee in the oven.  One of these days I will post the carrot gratin served chez elle as I remember.

The only thing that you have to be careful in this recipe are the eggs.  Make sure you don't over cook them or you will end up with hard boiled eggs on top of spinach.  Lightly poach them in water with a drop of vinegar for no more than 4 minutes and set them aside to cool.  You want them runny and remember they will continue to cook later in the oven when you pour the warm sauce and broil them.

Now, this recipe serves two or four, depending how you want to serve them.  Instead of ramekins I use the baking dish on the photo and place two instead of one egg in each dish.  I feel it's the least one can eat if serving as a main dish for lunch or brunch.  The recipe is very adaptable though and you can increase the ingredients proportionately if you wish to serve more people. Buon appetito!

  •  4 tbsp butter 
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 lb (450g) fresh spinach, well rinsed but not dried
  • 4 hot poached eggs
  • 1 TB breadcrumbs
  • 4 slices buttered toast, to serve

Special Equipment:

  • 4 flameproof serving dishes*


1. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and let bubble for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk. Cook, whisking often, until boiling and thickened. Season with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Whisk egg yolks and cream together, then whisk into the sauce. Stir in ¾ cup of the Gruyére. Keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes, until softened. Add the rinsed spinach, cover, and cook about 5 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Drain well.

3. Position a broiler rack about 6 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler. Divide the spinach among four (or 2) flameproof ramekins. Using a slotted spoon, place a poached egg  (or 2) in each ramekin, then top with the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Gruyére. Broil until the cheese is melted and golden.  Alternatively, you can bake in a very hot oven, 450 degrees, for 2 to 4 minutes.  Serve right away*, with the toast. 

*don't let the finished dish sit or the eggs will continue to cook and you will end up guessed it, hard boiled eggs!

Photo © 2008 Dorling Kindersley


  1. Another very sensible and alluring recipe, Julieta!
    What a relief to be able to dispense with hollandaise
    sauce, yet still achieve the general notion of a creamy
    covering for the poached eggs. And truer words were
    never spoken regarding the risk of hardening those

  2. Nice. I have a brunch to do this weekend, this is a great idea, easy to assemble beforehand.

  3. Another good egg idea. Have not made Mornay in quite a while. Eggs, spinach and cheese are great friends.

    Saw somewhere a recipe for poached eggs—and get this—flashed-fried in bread crumbs! I thinking it would be like an egg fritter. I don't fry anything these days but the idea of taking something so delicate, frying it and living to have a running egg yolk sounds like major mojo in the kitchen!

  4. Hi there, this is a really nice post involving eggs. It would be great if you linked to it in my brand new Food on Friday series. This week it is about all things egg. Food on Friday It would make my day if you put a link into it via the Mr Linky widget.


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