Tony writes: I love poached eggs. Love their texture, their simplicity. Love that you can go to a diner and leave (theoretically) feeling good about yourself (for selecting them in place of the regular greasy, griddled eggs). Over the last while, this love has overtaken pancakes and waffles as my Sunday morning breakfast of champions. My favored method is to simmer the eggs in a spicy but simple marinara; what the Italians refer to as “uova al purgatorio” (eggs in purgatory). It’s a nice technique, the kind of thing that makes a fine brunch or weeknight meal, especially if, as below, you layer the eggs with some greens and ham on crusty bread. Here’s how:
– The method: Though there are multiple elements in this preparation, the actual cooking entails little more than making an exceedingly simple marinara and crisping up some pancetta. For the tomato sauce, start by gently browning a couple smashed garlic cloves. Add a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes and fresh rosemary and simmer with pureed canned tomatoes (I like pureeing whole canned tomatoes; cleaner flavor and texture than “ground peeled”). After simmering for 10 minutes or so, crack the eggs into the tomato sauce and cook, occasionally spooning sauce over eggs, until the yolks just firm up, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, crisp up thick rounds of pancetta (Italy’s unsmoked version of bacon) and lightly dress baby arugula. Set each on top of toasted slices of whole-wheat and finish with the eggs and sauce.
The recipes: Serves 4
1. Make the marinara: Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil and 3 garlic cloves (smashed) in a medium pot over medium heat until the garlic sizzles steadily and browns lightly in places, 2 to 3 min. Add 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary and ½ tsp. crushed pepper flakes and cook for 15 seconds so they sizzle steadily and become fragrant. Add a 28-oz can whole tomatoes (puree them with their juices first; use an immersion blender or regular blender), season with 1 tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. black pepper, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and takes on the flavor of the garlic and rosemary, about 10 min. Taste for salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings: Cook 4 thick slices pancetta or bacon (about 6 oz.) in a large, heavy-based skillet over medium heat until it crisps and renders all of its fat, about 6 min. Top 4 slices whole wheat bread with 4 slices sharp cheddar (about 4 oz.) and toast until the cheese melts and browns. Dress 3 cups baby arugula (about 2 oz.) with 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.
3. Poach the eggs: Crack 4 eggs into the gently simmering tomato broth. Cover and cook until the the yolks firm up to your desired doneness, 2-5 min.
4. Assemble and serve: Set the toasted bread on 4 dinner plates. Top each with the pancetta and arugula. Spoon the eggs and plenty of sauce over each (taking care to avoid the whole garlic cloves) and serve immediately.