by: Alison Hein
Last Christmas, my husband, Kevin, gifted me with a trip to beautiful and quaint Newport, Rhode Island, to attend the annual September Food & Wine Festival. I was eagerly anticipating it for the past nine months. We would be visiting the historic mansions – living it up at a cocktail party at the ill-fated Rosecliff, indulging in an elite wine dinner in The Elms’ splendorous gilded age dining room, sipping wine and tasting culinary tidbits on the vast lawn at Marble House. Maybe even meeting Jacques Pépin!
What could top all this? Our stay at the elegant, romantic Cliffside Inn! Innkeepers Nancy and Bill Bagwill have lovingly restored their stately Victorian manor house (built in 1876) that sits in the heart of the historic district just steps from the famous Newport Cliff Walk. Each room is filled with elegance and personality. Just like us, you may want to keep going back, staying in Beatrice’s Room with its cozy window seat, then the Garden Suite with private garden and giant soaking tub, etc., etc….
In nice weather, guests gather in the morning on the huge wraparound porch, where Bill and Nancy serve heavenly French-pressed coffee, fresh baked goods, and a variety of sophisticated and tasty daily breakfasts. Bill kindly let me talk my way into the kitchen one morning, where I photographed, and he orchestrated his very special Eggs Florentine recipe. Read on to learn some of Bill’s tricks so you can prepare this wonderful breakfast in bed at home. Or, better yet, go visit this one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast and ask Bill to make them for you. 😉
1 Portuguese Bolo muffin (or substitute English muffin)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons caramelized onions
1 tablespoon Never Fail Hollandaise Sauce (recipe below)
1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
Pinch of dried culinary lavender
Pinch of salt
2 thin slices tomato
To poach eggs, fill a heavy saucepan with enough water to cover eggs (3 to 4 inches) and heat until very hot and simmering, but not boiling. Try Bill’s surefire method – break eggs one at a time into a fine mesh strainer, gently roll the egg in the strainer to remove the excess loose egg whites. (This allows the eggs to cook without feathering and eliminates the need to trim). Carefully pour the eggs, one at a time, into the simmering water. Cook for about three minutes, until the white is firm but the yolk is still soft. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain. (Bill transfers the eggs to a tepid water bath to keep warm while preparing the dish.)
Cut Portuguese muffin in half and brush lightly with mayonnaise. Place cut-side down on a grill surface and cook a few minutes until nicely toasted.
Heat olive oil in heavy pan over medium heat. Place fresh spinach in pan, in two separate portions. Place 1 tablespoon of caramelized onions on top of each spinach portion. Cook, for a minute or two, until spinach is wilted and onions are warmed through.
Place panko in a small dish, and stir in a pinch of lavender and a pinch of salt. Lightly dredge one side of tomatoes with panko mixture. Place under broiler for less than one minute, until panko is lightly browned.
To plate each serving, place one half of toasted Portuguese muffin on plate. Cover muffin with one spinach / onion portion. Place two eggs on top of spinach / onion mixture and drizzle with Hollandaise sauce. Garnish with one tomato slice.
Serve hot with crispy Applewood bacon.
Makes 2 servings.
Never Fail Hollandaise Sauce
4 egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ cup (1 stick) butter, bubbling hot
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it is bubbling hot. While butter is heating, combine egg yolks and lemon juice in a food processor with a couple of quick pulses. With food processor on, slowly stream in the hot butter until Hollandaise emulsifies. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and pulse the Hollandaise one more time to combine.