Easter Nest Egg
By Angela Denstad Stigeler
If you’re an early bird, an Easter brunch is a wonderful entertaining opportunity. What other major holiday meal can you structure around something as frugal as eggs? And eggs, for me, don’t get any better than poached, served over spinach, topped with hollandaise. Placing them in hash brown “nests” makes this version of Eggs Florentine especially festive for any spring event. Make them the main attraction, served with fresh fruit, bread, pastry and coffee. Since these eggs in nests go cheap, you’ll have a little nest egg left in your food budget, though since they’re so tasty, you’ll likely be left with an empty nest platter.
Eggs Florentine on Hash Brown Nests
1 pound parboiled potatoes, grated; or 3 cups frozen hash browns, thawed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 dozen fresh eggs
Paprika, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and heavily grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Combine the grated potatoes, cheese, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large bowl. Place ¼ cup of the potato mixture into each well in the muffin pan and press it in firmly over the bottom and all the way up the sides. Bake the nests for 35-40 minutes, until crisp and golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then carefully run a knife around the outer edges and remove the nests from the tins to a serving platter.
While the nests are baking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Spear the garlic clove the long way on the tines of a fork. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring with the garlic-tipped fork until all the spinach is just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the hollandaise sauce, melt 7 tablespoons of the butter and keep warm. Whisk the two egg yolks for a minute or so in a small stainless steel saucepan until they start to thicken and lighten in color. Whisk in a pinch of salt, the lemon juice and half of the remaining pat of butter. Set over moderately low heat and whisk continuously at moderate speed, removing pan from the heat now and then to make sure the yolks aren’t cooking too fast. When they cling to the wires of the whisk and you can see the bottom of the pan between strokes, remove from heat and whisk in the remaining pat of cold butter. Start beating in the melted butter by little dribbles at first until half of the butter is incorporated, then continue adding the rest in a steady stream. The sauce should be thick and creamy. Adjust seasoning as necessary and keep warm, stirring often to prevent a skin from forming.
To finish, spoon some of the spinach into each of the hash brown nests and return to the oven to rewarm. Bring a cup of water to a boil and lightly grease the 12-cup muffin pan. Pour about two tablespoons boiling water into each well, crack an egg into each, and “poach” in the oven for 7-9 minutes. Drain the water and scoop each egg out onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Put an egg on each nest, drizzle the hollandaise over evenly and sprinkle with paprika. Serve warm.