Breakfast is typically not my most creative meal of the day—early morning is not often the time I feel the most culinarily inspired. The truth is, I could live off a poached egg atop toasted sourdough (with a generous dousing of Cholula) every single day for the rest of my life. It would never get old to me.
Every now and then, however, I get a wild hair and branch out. In the case of these eggs Florentine in hash brown nests, it was an experiment in pantry raiding. What can I make without leaving the house to buy groceries? I've had some frozen hash browns in my freezer for too long to admit and three open bags of half eaten spinach staring at me. As for eggs, pancetta, and butter, those are three ingredients I am never without.
It's usually the results of these little pantry experiments that end up pleasing me the most. In this case, I'm not all that surprised considering I already love all of the parts of the sum. Needless to say, the hash brown nests themselves are definitely my new favorite thing. They are so easy, and so very good. I can see them being a base for so many things in the future! Perhaps loaded baked potato nests? Yes, please.
Eggs Florentine in Hash Brown Nests
Serves 4 (2 nests per person)
For the hash brown nests
2 cups thawed hash browns
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 eggs (optional)
For the base
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 (6 ounce) bag spinach
8 very thin slices of pancetta
For the Hollandaise
2 organic or free-range egg yolks
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
Juice of half a lemon
Kosher salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
Paprika, for garnish
For the hash brown nests, preheat oven to 425°. Generously grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.
Combine the hash browns, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. (Note: for a more "substantial" nest, add two eggs to the mix. I like them without but my boyfriend preferred them with. Your call.) Fill 8 tins with 1/4 cup each of packed hash brown mixture. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes; then carefully remove from the tins. Turn oven to the lowest setting and keep the nests warm, if necessary.
While the nests are in the oven, melt butter in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add spinach, a handful at a time, and cook until completely wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Lay the pancetta slices flat in the skillet and cook, without moving, until the fat begins to render and the edges start to crisp up, about 3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Poach or fry the eggs as desired. Here is a tutorial on poaching eggs, and another on frying them.
For the Hollandaise, pulse the egg yolks in a blender for a few seconds. Slowly add the butter, drop by drop, with the blender running until an emulsion begins to form. After adding 1/4-1/2 of the butter, you can start to pour it in a steady stream. The Hollandaise should be thick and creamy. Add the lemon juice and a generous amount of kosher salt and cayenne; pulse a few more seconds. (If the Hollandaise is too thick to drizzle, stir in a couple of drops of warm water until it is pourable.)
To assemble the eggs Florentine, place a piece of pancetta on each nest. Add a pile of spinach and a poached egg. Drizzle with Hollandaise sauce. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of paprika. Serve immediately.