Like many of my Creole relatives and ancestors, I am a big fan of the long, late breakfast now frequently called brunch. Nothing says luxurious like a midday meal that is part breakfast, part lunch and long on conversation and sparkling wine.
The best brunch I ever ate was consumed at Antoine’s in New Orleans when I was unfortunately too young to be served sparkling wine. We had the most delicious egg dish this side of eggs Benedict. Known as Eggs Sardou this dish is traditionally attributed to the same gentleman who invented Café Brulot, Jules Alciatore, then owner of Antoine’s. He invented it and served it to the French playwright Victorien Sardou in 1908.
It is not a simple dish, but it is a beautiful gesture for family and guests this time of year. Our family follows the Creole tradition of opening presents and enjoying reveillon on the night before Christmas and then sleeping in on Christmas Day and Eggs Sardou is wonderful as a late supper or Christmas Day brunch. Alciatore’s original recipe can be found in the book I mentioned last Monday, The 100 Greatest New Orleans Creole Recipes written by Roy F. Guste, Jr. This is my version with a couple of shortcuts. But make your own Hollandaise if you can at all; it really is worth it.
4 tbsps butter
1 small white onion, diced
2 9 oz. bags of fresh spinach, washed or the equivalent of frozen spinach, drained
2 tbsps flour
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
8 artichoke bottoms, cooked at home or canned
2 tbsps white vinegar
Hollandaise sauce (see below)
Melt 2 tbsps butter in a pan and sauté the onion. Once onion is clarified, add the spinach, as much as will fit in your pan at once, lower heat and cover to wilt. Continue, stirring occasionally, until all spinach is incorporated. Sauté a few minutes more while stirring regularly and then set it aside.
In a separate pot, melt the rest of your butter then turn the heat to low. Whisk in flour and, while continuously whisking, cook 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to stir as you pour in your heavy cream and allow this mixture to come to a very gentle boil to thicken. Add salt and pepper off the heat and then stir into your spinach mixture.
Warm the artichoke bottoms just slightly if you did not cook them yourself – 20 seconds in the microwave works fine.
Poach your eggs as you would usually, either in a poacher or in salted water to which the vinegar has been added. This dish is best with a runny yolk which adds to the Hollandaise sauce.
Place creamed spinach on four plates, and top it with two artichoke bottoms on each plate. Place a poached egg on each artichoke and top with Hollandaise. I like to sprinkle the sauce with some chopped fresh chives and be sure to have pepper sauce on hand for those who like it with a kick.
You can use prepared, warmed Hollandaise for this recipe, but here is Antoine’s recipe if you would like to give it a try:
1 pound butter (no one said this was diet food)
8 large egg yolks
4 tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
Start with eggs, lemon juice salt and cayenne in a ban Marie on simmer, then cut the sticks of butter in half and add the first half to the egg mixture. Now whisk until the butter has melted, then add your next ½ stick of butter and continue until all the butter in incorporated. The sauce will start to thicken in the course of a few minutes. Once it is a nice consistency, remove from heat and set aside for use as above. Remaining sauce can be kept in the frig for up to two weeks (that means eggs Benedict for New Years!).
Et voila, prenons au pot!
Header: Antoine’s Restaurant via the NYT