As Marie explained a little while back, egg based dishes are really the ticket to a quick, protein-rich, satisfying meal. And such dishes are even better being as they are, welcome any time of day–a relaxed dinner, an elegant brunch platter, an easy lunch.
Though while I often think of egg-based dishes making for light meals, there are plenty of ways that they do not. Quiche, I’m looking at you. Even in your “healthier” spinach quiche guise, you still have loads of cream and butter and cheese. Might as well just eat the quiche with bacon.
This recipe, however, both claims to be, and really is, a light meal. The eggs are gently baked in the oven over a bed of flavors–earthy spinach infused with the robust aroma of aleppo pepper, playing off against the sweetness of gently sautéed onions. It’s particularly nice right now as the weather gets warmer and will easily round out all those “casual” brunch parties we’ll be throwing all summer on our perfectly manicured backyards, with fizzy mimosas made from fresh squeezed oranges decorating our perfectly manicured hands as we toss our heads back with effortless laughter. Or, it is equally appropriate for more slapdash brunches–the only ones we manage to have, usually starting at the ungodly brunch hour of 9am on a Sunday since everyone we know has young kids so we’ve all been up several hours by then anyway.
I once read that baking eggs in the oven was used as a true test of a cook’s skill at the great French culinary academies (in fact it’s probably a cliché), and when you make this dish you can see why. It’s hard to tell just by looking if the eggs have set. Although the whites are fairly straightforward–they’re either white or they are not–the yolks remain surprisingly (and confoundingly) vibrant yellow and almost glossy. Of course, the upside of this is that your yolks set into that slightly creamy, yet firm consistency that is the hallmark of a well-cooked hard-boiled egg. I ended up relying on the very scientific “poke the yolk with your finger” test.
Before I scare anyone off however, I fully admit to overcooking my eggs and this dish still turns out wonderfully. And to assuage any further fears, I overdo things intentionally, because I worry about things like giving my kids salmonella. I needn’t have worried: The last time we brought this to a brunch, they wouldn’t touch it once they saw that blog-famous amazing pull-apart bread our hostess had made.
Baked Eggs on Wilted Spinach
Notes: Stemming spinach goes remarkably fast (especially as compared to other greens), no knife needed. Simply fold in half along the stem and zip the leaves off. I use two bunches of spinach, and my kitchen scale malfunctioned when I tried to weigh the stemmed leaves, but assuming your bunches are 12 ounces each you’ll probably end up with 8 ounces of leaves. It’s not a make or break proposition so no worries. Make sure to wash your spinach well–it traps dirt remarkably well. The first time I made this there was an unwelcome grittiness to the meal, so I learned my lesson.
I like to preheat the baking dish in the oven while I make the spinach mixture, and then add a light coating of oil, on the theory that this will make the eggs will be less liable to stick and therefore the dish easier to clean off.
- 3T olive oil
- 1 red onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2t aleppo pepper (or more, or substitute some other dried pepper)
- salt and pepper
- 2 large bunches of spinach, stemmed
- 4 eggs
- Optional: Greek yogurt to garnish
Preheat the oven to 310F.
Heat the olive oil over medium low in a large skillet. Add the onion and sautee until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, aleppo pepper, and spinach and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted. Adjust for salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish (or use your skillet if it can be transferred to the oven; unless you are using a lot of spinach an 8 inch skillet is probably the best size).
Crack each egg into a separate cup (or crack two eggs gently into two cups if you are more daring). Make wells in the spinach mixture and gently pour an egg into each indentation.
Bake for about 25 minutes at 310–though allow extra time as I’ve had it take even 10 minutes more at times. (I’m guessing depending on the temperature of the eggs).
Serve with greek yogurt, if desired.