Eggs Florentine are a special but tooootally do-able breakfast or brunch inspired by Carluccio’s and one of our favorite London traditions.
I miss living in London. There, I said it. It’s a ridiculous, nostalgic brand of missing at this point, all wistful memories of our highlights and total disregard of the annoyances and challenges. I’m okay with that.
One beautiful highlight was my Saturday morning tradition with the big girl, who, looking back, wasn’t so big. We’d rush to her piano lesson, just the two of us, often missing the last reasonable bus by seconds. Hop into a black cab. She’d have her lesson, I’d stay and listen unless I couldn’t wait a minute more for coffee. Then we’d walk the gorgeous walk from West Hampstead eastward to Rosslyn Hill, cutting through Shepherd’s Walk, the Narnian passageway that leads from Fitzjohns Avenue right to Carluccio’s.
We’d open the big glass door separating Carluccio’s from the world, and we’d assess the crowd. Sit near the light-filled windows if no ill-mannered party of five or more had populated that area, kids akimbo. The big girl always sat on the booth side, me in the chair. We’d cross our fingers for our favorite waitress, who missed us if we ever skipped a week. She was too good to be true — a recent immigrant from eastern Europe clearly headed for bigger and brighter things before long.
And then we’d order.
Always the same meal. Eggs Florentine for both of us. Mine with a side of the best mushrooms ever. Milky hot chocolate for her. For me, if I felt like it, an espresso cup full of the thickest, richest hot chocolate anywhere ever. Plus — of course — coffee.
The eggs weren’t wildly consistent. Sometimes the yolks would disappoint with their firmness, or the hollandaise pour would be stingy. There were better weeks and just pretty good weeks. Regardless, we were happy.
Afterward we might do a little shopping on the high street. Sunglasses at Oliver Bonas. A stroll through the toy store for birthday party gifts. Snacks or ingredients from Pomona if we were really doubling down on food that day. Didn’t much matter — we were mostly just milking our time together.
Then we’d go home and hug the other half of our family, who’d been out doing a similar thing — but with smoked salmon — at a different neighborhood café. Within the hour, I’d be looking forward to next week.
Talk to you soon.
Eggs Florentine, Carluccio's London Style
This long-overdue recipe is inspired by a much-loved Saturday morning tradition we had during our London years. Piano lessons, then Carluccio's for me and the big girl, where we always ordered the same thing.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 12 ounces baby spinach
- Sprinkle of fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 8 large eggs
- 4 slices good Italian bread
- 1 recipe blender hollandaise
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add shallot and garlic and cook for a few seconds. Add spinach by the handful as it fits in the pan, sprinkle with salt and stir frequently until wilted.
To poach the eggs, fill a wide sauté pan halfway with water. (A pan like this is ideal.) Add vinegar and bring water to a brisk simmer, then reduce heat so the water is virtually still. Crack each egg into a small bowl and tip carefully into the water, submerging the bowl a bit as you pour. I like to add the eggs in a clockwise circle starting near the handle so I remember in which order to remove them for even cooking. Cook undisturbed for four minutes, until whites are set and yolks are runny. Remove eggs from pan with a strainer spoon (something like this). Gently place eggs on a paper towel-lined plate and dab the tops to remove excess water. Cut away any scraggly whites if you like.
While the eggs poach, toast the bread and make the hollandaise.
To serve, on each of four plates, top a piece of toast with some spinach, making a little bed for the eggs. Add two poached eggs. Spoon some Hollandaise sauce overtop. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and some parsley if you like.