April 3, 2012

Easter Eggs

Poached eggs with sauteed collards on toast.
I don't remember poached eggs being a part of my childhood—we were mostly a scrambled or over-easy family. Scrambled eggs were served with cinnamon toast (you make a sandwich, see, by folding each full piece of cinnamon toast in half and putting your scrambled eggs in the middle, DUH) and fried eggs, over easy, which were always plopped on top of a piece of toast—one that already boasted butter and jam. Seriously, try it if you haven't already. Toast, butter, strawberry jam, fried egg over easy, salt and pepper, you can't go wrong.

Quiche, breakfast tacos, strata, custards, bread pudding—all egg-based dishes have become a favorite of mine at some point in time. I'm working my way up to an egg-topped pizza, which in my mind tastes exactly like heaven.

Fitting, it seems, though I didn't begin with this thought, that I'm writing of my love for eggs in the week of Easter; eggs are, after all, a sign of spring and of new life and of good things to come.

Meanwhile, maybe I should mention that our neighbor may or may not have two hens nearing egg-laying age and a hand-built coop that he's looking to hand off to someone when he leaves town.

And maybe I should mention also that I've been asking for hens for a while. You see where I'm heading with this?

I should also bring up the fact that the neighbor's chickens do emit an unfortunate smell that woefully wafts into our yard and has made me question this whole chicken thing. Hmmm.

Goodbye, collard greens...
So it may not be happening for us, this whole backyard chickens thing. Which is unfortunate, because I felt like I was SO CLOSE to convincing my dear, loving, supportive husband that we are wonderful candidates for backyard chickens. That I would love them and feed them and collect their eggs and play with them every day.

We'll see where the hen saga lands. In the mean time, I will enjoy organic, free-range, cage free, locally sourced brown eggs that I've lovingly purchased at the grocery store.

This dish is a simple weeknight meal that comes together in a matter of minutes. It's healthy, savory, and delicious, and you can swap out any dark leafy green for the collards (think kale, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens).

I used up the last of the collards from our garden to put this together, which made for a perfect send-off. It's been hard for me to say goodbye to our winter garden because it was so wonderful to us. I enjoyed everything we ate from it, and it just kept giving, despite being savagely attacked by snails in the last month. It is April, mind you, and we've already seen temps in the upper 80s here in Texas, so it's a wonder my leafy greens held on so very long.

By Sunday, I knew it was time to pull the last of the greens (they'd started to bolt and were so ravaged by snails that it was hard to salvage much) to make way for the cucumbers now residing in that bed.

But remember the eggs? And the symbol of new life (and the beginning of a new gardening season)? And the promise of good things to come? We've come full circle.

Poached Eggs with Toast and Greens for Two

1 bunch collard greens, de-stemmed and cut into inch-wide ribbons
4 eggs 
water and a splash of white vinegar
4 pieces of toast (I prefer hearty whole-grain with seeds–extra crunch is nice)
4 slices sharp cheddar
Dijon mustard
lemon wedges
salt and freshly ground pepper

The quick version of the recipe: saute the greens in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until they're done but still al dente. Squeeze one lemon wedge over the greens.

Prepare your toast and top with Dijon and cheddar. Pile the greens on the toast and then poach the eggs. Put the eggs on top and garnish with salt and freshly ground pepper, and more lemon if you like it.

Now the long version.

The trick to this is not necessarily the recipe, which is simple and straightforward (and was inspired by the photos from this post), but the timing. You'll want to have the greens and toast ready to go in time to slide the eggs right on them. Meanwhile, you don't want your toast to get soggy while you're waiting on anything.

The entire meal takes only 10 minutes: I prepped the greens and cooked them for about 5 minutes before turning on the toaster and beginning to boil the water. As soon as the greens were al dente, I spritzed them with lemon, turned off the heat, and covered them. By then, the water was just about to boil and the toast had about 3 minutes left to go. Just as the toast timer dinged, the eggs were done. Assembled dinner and voila! It's all hot and ready to eat.

It really helps to know your egg poaching technique forwards and backwards. Last night, I aced it. The eggs were perfect and put-together and I was happier for it. Here's how I do it:

Crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. In a small saucepan, heat the water and vinegar until tiny bubbles form (just before boiling). Give the water a good stir so that it is circulating, and then slowly slide each egg in from its ramekin. Cook, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes for runny yolks (my preference). Carefully remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and let all the water drain off.

For a great how-to video, turn to the Kitchn!

And here's another tip: I made a version of this at work the next day. I packed the sauteed greens, some bread, and two raw—yep, raw—eggs in my lunch box. Come lunch time, I used to company toaster and the microwave to recreate my dinner. It turned out pretty great! Here's the microwave poached egg how-to.