Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Poached Eggs with Winter Greens & Pancetta
My brilliant friends, sisters Kelly & Katie McMenamin, run a home organization company based on personality type. You'd be amazed how well it works. I mean these girls get you, no matter who you are and how weird you think your foibles might be.
This year they launched a website, PixiesDidIt!, offering personalized home and life advice. You can sign up for daily or weekly PixieTips - ideas for how to make your life easier here.
For some time now they've been giving me a much needed prod to start back to work post-baby (well really post-toddler at this point), and it finally worked. This week they're featuring my ideas for fast, easy dinners, the first of which is my Poached Eggs with Winter Greens & Pancetta, posted below. I hope you enjoy - it's nice to be back.
I think eggs are the most underused ingredients of the weeknight dinner menu. They’re quick, affordable, delicious, and offer near limitless possibilities. In fact I could honestly fill this entire week with eggs-for-dinner recipes. But what I might love most about eggs is how easy it is to make them feel elegant, chic, and (I’ll admit it) just that little bit French. One of my favorite food writers of all time Elizabeth David actually named one of her books An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. That is exactly where I’m coming from here: simple flavors, simple preparation, and yet you still can so easily create an almost escapist experience. Eating this dish is a comfort not least because it makes you feel you’re living well.
Picture a little green salad, or in the winter, some lightly wilted, peppery greens, fragrant with good olive oil and touched with the merest hint of mustard or garlic. Add a glass of something crisp and light or red and robust, depending on your mood, plus maybe some crusty baguette for mopping up the juices. And then the eggs – in this case poached so that the yolks can meld with the simple vinaigrette and crisp pancetta or bacon to create an unctuous, soul-reviving sauce. It’s the work of 20 minutes, tops, but truly one of my favorite dinners. The meal is quiet, minimalist, and makes it awfully easy to pretend you’re sitting at some rustic wooden table in a little bistro somewhere, watching the windows fog up and plotting out how many vineyards you might be able to get to the next day before lunch.
And remember, practice is what makes any recipe familiar and approachable. Cook this a couple of times, and you’ll have the shopping, the timing, and the serving down pat. Read through the instructions before starting and finish the (very light) prep work before you begin. It’ll soon be second nature and a wonderful fall-back to add to your arsenal.
Serves 3 - 4
Extra virgin olive oil
½ lb thick-cut pancetta or bacon, cubed to medium size
3 tbsp vinegar (any kind)
8 good quality eggs, the fresher, the better
2 tbsp white balsamic or sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, crushed, paper removed
freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice to taste
large bunch of young mustard greens, kale, escarole, or other winter greens that appeal, (spinach and swiss chard won’t offer the same texture but will taste just as delicious), large ribs and stems removed and leaves rinsed, dried, and torn into pieces.
French baguette, sliced thickly to serve
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add a small drizzle of olive oil and then the pancetta cubes. Stir occasionally until brown and crisp.
As the pancetta cooks, put the white balsamic or sherry vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk in 6 tbsp of the olive oil. Check the seasoning with the lemon juice and more salt and pepper as desired. Set aside.
Meanwhile fill a large saucepan with 3 inches of hot tap water. Add the 3 tbsp of vinegar (this helps the egg whites to stay together), and bring up to a simmer over high heat.
Once the pancetta is browned, remove to a paper towel to drain and pour off the fat from the sauté pan. Add a healthy glug of olive oil to the same pan and then the winter greens you’ve chosen. Season with a little kosher salt and then cook over medium heat, adding more oil if the pan becomes dry, until the greens have wilted and softened. Obviously the tougher your leaves, the longer it takes. Spinach will cook the most quickly. Something like kale needs more time. Once the greens are done, divide and arrange them in the center of each plate. Pour over a little of the vinaigrette. You may have left over, and it keeps very well covered in the fridge.
By now the water and vinegar should have reached a simmer. Gently tip each of the eggs into the mixture. If they stick to the bottom of the pan, wait until they are set to free them. Simmer over low heat very gently for 2 – 3 minutes until the whites are just set but the yolks are still runny.
When the eggs are done, gently remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and pat off extra moisture with a paper towel. Arrange the eggs on top of the greens and sprinkle over the pancetta cubes. Season with a little more kosher salt and black pepper, and serve immediately with a glass of wine and plenty of crusty baguette.