Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Spinach Revelation, and a Failed Experiment

I usually take advantage of my Mondays at home to cook for at least part of the week. Yesterday, however, I got sidetracked. First, I made granola. Then, I made cake (more about that another day). While I was making the cake, I was also making my first batch of rhubarb ginger jam. In the midst of all that, I ran errands, did some work, gardened in the drizzle, did laundry (including the caked-with-dirt-from-gardening-in-the-drizzle gardening clothes). Somehow, I forgot to make dinner. I had the fixings for a nice salad, but it was chilly and damp, not really salad weather.

What I did have, I realized as the afternoon edged toward evening, was a lot of spinach. A pound and a half, to be precise. I thought about spinach and green garlic soup; I thought about my tried and true spinach soup, but I wasn't in a soup mood. And then I remembered that Deb at Smitten Kitchen had written a few months ago about baked spinach, which she called, in fact, the "best baked spinach," and that seemed like just the ticket. The full recipe called for 3 pounds of spinach, and I only had half of that, but I figured the recipe was easy enough to halve, which I did. I'm going to send you over to Deb's post for the instructions. Suffice it to say that the spinach is, in fact, delicious. Also easy, though there are several steps (which makes sense, since the recipe is one she pieced together from several Julia Child recipes.) Once the spinach is wilted, you saute it in a bit of butter.

After it's dried out, you add a bit of flour, and once that's absorbed, some stock or cream, depending on how decadent you're feeling. (I used 1/2 asparagus stock and 1/2 1/2 and 1/2.) (I couldn't resist writing it that way.) Then you mix with some cheese, put it in a baking dish and top it with some breadcrumbs and more cheese, and you're done.

I didn't have any baked spinach to compare this too, but it was delicious, and I will absolutely make it again, this time, a full recipe. And I might not even share.

But then we come to the failed experiment.

One of Deb's suggestions was to use the spinach as a bed for a poached egg. This seemed like a fine idea to me except that I can't really make poached eggs. Alex, on the other hand, is a poached egg master, so I just cede the making of poached eggs to him. Last night, however, he wasn't there, and I was on my own if I wanted a poached egg. I thought about just making a soft-boiled egg instead, but then I remembered recently having read something about making poached eggs in the microwave and I decided to give it a try. I found what I had read--a short piece in Bon Appetit. Unfortunately, I began my experiment after I'd read the piece but before I read the comments, which suggested that it might be more complicated than it appeared on the surface. The Bon Appetit method involved putting the egg in water in a cup, covering with a saucer, and cooking on high heat for 1 minute, and voila-- a perfect poached egg was supposed to appear.

My microwave is ancient, however, and nothing cooks in one minute. My general calculation is that something that takes 1 minute in a newer microwave takes at least 3 minutes in mine. As a compromise, I set the timer for 2 minutes. But when the buzzer went off and I checked, the egg was only partly poached. I put the saucer back on and turned it on for 2 more minutes. About a minute in, there was a crash loud enough to send the cats scurrying to the basement in fear. When I opened the door, thankfully I didn't find a smashed dish and egg everywhere. I did, however, find the saucer catapulted to the side, along with some water and a bit of egg. What was left of the egg was closer to hard boiled than soft-boiled. It was rather sad looking, in fact.

Only then did I think to look at the comments, both of which said there were too many variables, and it hadn't worked. I had to agree with them.

Still, all was not lost. A piece of Hungry Ghost eight grain bread, topped with half the spinach, topped with the remains of the egg, turned out to be a delicious dinner.

Two lessons learned: The spinach is a winner.

And, at least for the moment, I will leave the poached eggs to Alex.


Anjuli said...

Oh I'm so glad to read about this making of spinach- coz I'm always looking for new spinach recipes etc...I laughed about the poached eggs.

Sue Dickman said...

Anjuli, I'm always looking for new spinach recipes as well, esp. in the spring and fall when I can grow it or get it at the farmers market. I'm definitely adding this one to my permanent spinach collection!

Lisa Peet said...

I actually bought egg-poaching tools so I could put poached eggs on top of greens -- it's one of my favorite combinations. They're these silicone rubber cups, shaped cunningly like eggshells with serrations around the edge. You spray them or oil them lightly, break an egg inside, and then float them in boiling water like lily pads until the eggs are set. Pretty foolproof, and that's the only way I can do them consistently.

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