Seasonal Flavors: Eggs Florentine


By Denise Zito

Such an abundance of eggs and spinach in April! A wonderful option is to prepare Eggs Florentine, but two things usually give a person reason to pause: many people are put off by poached eggs and how in the world do you make a good Hollandaise sauce? I’ve conquered the latter and I’ll give you another idea for the former.

When I decided to write about Eggs Florentine, I was excited by the thought of learning the origin of the name and recipe, hoping that it had something to do with Florence, Italy. Alas, I found all kinds of crazy theories and ideas—so many that I decided that I don’t believe any of them! I did find one reference to Florence, claiming that the city is famous for its use of spinach. Well, I’ve been to Florence, and the food is wonderful beyond imagining, but I don’t recall eating spinach there.

The most consistent fact I found was that Eggs Florentine is a variation on Eggs Benedict, substituting spinach for the ham. But my version doesn’t even include the English muffin and while I’m at it, I prefer a fried egg to a poached egg. So we might just want to describe what follows as Eggs Zito.

Now the hard part—that Hollandaise! I make Hollandaise sauce every Easter for the asparagus. And though my family very generously considers me a fine cook, it is the family joke that I botch the Hollandaise at least 80 percent of the time. If you’re working with eggs, butter and lemon juice, there aren’t many complaints if the sauce ‘breaks’ (separates) before it is served. But when you succeed in making it velvety smooth, there is almost nothing as sublime.

I think I’ve found the secret to foolproof Hollandaise and I’m happy to spare you the embarrassment of the broken sauce.

Note about the double boiler: Yes, in my younger days I used a stainless steel mixing bowl over a saucepan of water. I burned myself repeatedly, but the metal bowl and saucepan are an okay substitute for a real double-boiler. Now that I’m a grown-up, I have a double boiler that I use twice a year: once on Easter for the asparagus and once on the day I make this recipe.

Zito-Style Eggs Florentine

For the spinach:

  • 10 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

Wash and chop the spinach, sauté lightly in oil with the garlic. Cook it just till slightly wilted. Scoop the spinach into an oven-proof 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

For the eggs:

Fry six eggs as you and your family like them, i.e. over easy, sunny-side up or whatever. If you’re a purist, then poach them. Arrange the eggs on the spinach. Sprinkle with a cup of grated parmesan cheese. Put under the broiler for a couple of minutes until brown.

For the Hollandaise:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • ¼ cup boiling water from your tea kettle 
  • 1½ tsp. lemon juice

Whisk the butter and egg yolks together in the top of a double boiler set over the bottom pan of simmering hot water. Don’t let the water touch the bottom of the top pan and don’t let the water in the bottom pan boil. Keep whisking until the butter is melted then slowly, little by little add the ¼ cup of boiling water while continuing to whisk. After 7 to 10 minutes the sauce will thicken. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.

Pour this luscious sauce over the spinach and eggs and serve. Good for breakfast, brunch, or dinner. Amaze your family and friends with perfect Hollandaise sauce!