Eggs Sardou

I alluded ever so vaguely to it two weeks ago … Caroline brushed up closer last week with making bread, because there is none to buy.  But this week we have to acknowledge full-on: things are a MESS for those not already sequestered in a floating home where non-cohabitants have at least an anchor line-and-chain’s space between them.  Imagine if we tried to explain social distancing to the general populace the way you determine how much rode to lay out for swing?  I  know it would make it easier for this Pirate … I go to the grocery for my maybe-weekly stock up and have a hard time remembering to stay six feet away.  It’s stressful.  So this past Saturday, a stress-relieving brunch seemed in order, and the old New Orleans staple of Eggs Sardou came to mind.  Invented at Antoine’s two centuries ago and named for a visiting French playwright, this dish is also rumored to be the ultimate hangover food, if that happens to be your need.

Eggs Sardou

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3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk
10 ounces fresh spinach leaves (about 5 cups, 1 grocery store bag)
Dash (or several) hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 whole canned artichoke bottoms (from one 14-ounce can)
6-8 eggs

For the sauce:

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper
Juice and rind of one lemon

I won’t lie, I took all kinds of liberties with the traditional recipe here, some pandemic-driven and others just a demand of life underway.  Things turned out less visually impressive, but every bit as delicious.  Antoine’s might not approve … though maybe during the crisis they’d just give me a mighty thumbs up for deliciousness over style.  The recipe is supposed to serve four, with eight eggs.  We loaded up on spinach and had just three servings and had sauce leftover for chicken dinner.  Up to you on serving sizes.

Let’s get the biggest compromise out of the way early, and I did it by choice rather than constraint: I used my mom’s sauce that she calls “mock Hollandaise” in place of the traditional.  MUCH easier in general, but really nothing like traditional Hollandaise.  It can be prepared in advance (and stored, refrigerated, served later with no detriment … generally eliminating a lot of downsides of the usual Hollandaise) — and it’s way more versatile, making a delicious sauce for chicken or fish, many vegetables, etc.  Here, it not only smooths the whole production process, but also the acidity brightens it a bit and cuts the richness of everything else.  So up to you…if you want a traditional Hollandaise and the ultimate hangover cure, Pirate Caroline has one here.  Otherwise, to make mock Hollandaise: combine the mayonnaise, milk, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, just until heated — about 3 minutes.  (And spend those three minutes looking at other uses for our mock Hollandaise here and here.)

Off heat, stir in the lemon juice and rind.  You can now store this room temperature until serving, or put it right in a Tupperware in the icebox.  It’s going to give you glorious leftovers.  Oh, and if you’re in a galley with a three burner stove that can’t accommodate more than three pots (or even two pots and a wide frying pan) at a time, you’re going to need to set this aside to do spinach, artichoke hearts, and eggs in succession.

For the spinach, melt two tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook, stirring, until just softened, about 3 minutes.

Add flour and cook stirring constantly until mixture just begins to brown and flour smells toasted, about 4 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly stir in milk until no lumps remain. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add spinach and stir until wilted.  There’s probably way too much spinach to fit in the pan all at once; two or three batches, each stirred and allowed to wilt down a bit, should work.  Allow mixture to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and creamy 15 to 20 minutes.

Off heat, stir in hot sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to use.

While spinach mixture simmers, melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add artichoke bottoms and cook, stirring, until heated but not browned, about 5 minutes. No, those aren’t artichoke bottoms, they’re heart quarters…all the store had.  Tastes just as good, but you lose the dramatic presentation of one egg nestled in one bottom nestled in a pool of spinach.  Season with salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

Poach eggs until whites are set but yolks are still runny. Poached eggs can be transferred to a bowl of warm water with a slotted spoon as they cook to hold until ready to serve, but if they’re the last thing you’ve readied, just lift them out of the hot water with a slotted spoon and onto a paper towel to drain.  Then to serve, you can just roll them off the towel into your hand and onto the plate.

A confession here…I had never poached eggs before.  It’s always terrified me — SO  many instructions for not getting it horribly wrong!  So why I thought my first time giving it a shot should be putting a giant pan full of boiling water in a little galley, underway in choppy waters, I’ll never know.  I even watched an entire video on Serious Eats, almost none of which I could comply with (no super-fresh eggs, no fine wire mesh strainer).  And having read about swirling the water … well, I just though getting it “self-swirling” in a bouncing vessel was perfect.  Not that any of the advisories said whitecaps on your poaching water were a good call.

When ready to serve, divide creamed spinach between 3 plates, place 2 warmed artichoke bottoms on top of each portion of spinach, then place one poached in each artichoke. Top with Hollandaise and serve immediately.

Serve to an uncommonly happy crew, just a quarter mile offshore, but a world away from the world’s worries!  Now, sit back and binge-watch Pelican TV for a few hours.

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