Egg-sauced eggs might seem like culinary redundancy, but a fear of repetition has never stopped Eggs Benedict. So, trust the double-down today of poached eggs draped in Sauce Gribiche, a French production based on hard-boiled eggs.
To some, the sauce is close to a mayonnaise, or it can be, as I prefer, a loose-limbed vinaigrette textured with herbs, capers, shallots and cornichon.
Here, the yolk emulsifies the oil in the sauce, and the perky white rebounds the crunch of the cornichon. Then the poached eggs (or soft-boiled if you’d rather), are the yielding canvas for that sour-sharp dressing. With the grassy crunch of tender asparagus and the thin, savoury crust of pancake, the plate is altogether surprisingly spirited and fresh.
Speaking of that pancake, within the family tree of such things, it appears on the same branch as Yorkshire pudding, German pancakes and Dutch babies. And, as with its brethren, there are some measures that will ensure the puffiest result. Blend the batter thoroughly; whip the liquids first so they gain volume, then incorporate the dry to thicken to a velvety slurry. Word to the wise, having the eggs and milk at room temperature aids in the blending. A portion of the flour replaced with an equal amount of cornstarch, maybe 1/4 cup, will grant even more lightness. That said, I’m usually pleased enough with the results of flour alone, so rarely take the extra step.
What is essential, however, is to set the pan in the oven as it preheats; leave it to bake so that it gets properly, thoroughly hot. This way, upon contact with the scorching surface the batter will immediately both seize and expand, and the pan will have enough latent heat to recover quickly from the shock.
As a bonus, the wait affords the opportunity to prep the garnishes. Make the gribiche. Blanch the asparagus, then in the same pan poach the eggs and keep them aside.
Once the pancake is baking, reheat the eggs if needed, get your sprouts in order, and invite your guests to the table. In the end, everything comes together in a blink, there should not be a moment’s hesitation before serving – the pancake will settle as it cools, thus the aim is to present it fresh from the oven at its full, crenulated height.
Puffed Pancake with Asparagus, Eggs, and Sauce Gribiche
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup milk, room temperature
3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, melted, divided
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon medium-grained kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, minced
medium-grained kosher salt, as needed
2 eggs, hard-boiled
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and dried, then chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons chervil, minced
4 cornichons, diced finely
Freshly ground black pepper
Poached eggs, one or two per person
3/4 pound (340 g) asparagus, trimmed, peeled if necessary, cut on bias and blanched
1 cup mixed sprouts
4 to 6 slices cured ham, such as jamón iberico or prosciutto
Set a 10-inch cast iron or ovenproof skillet on the middle rack of an oven, then preheat to 450°F (230°C).
After the oven has preheated or 30 minutes has passed, combine eggs, milk and half of the ghee in the carafe of an upright blender. Affix the lid and turn the machine on to high for 30 seconds. Stop the motor. Tip the flour, salt and pepper on top of the liquids, and blend briefly, until just smooth.
Pour the remaining ghee into the preheated skillet, and keep in oven about 90 seconds. Swirl the pan to coat the sides with ghee, then pour in the batter in the centre of the skillet – keeping splatter away from the sides – and immediately return to the oven. Bake until pancake is lofty and well-bronzed in spots, 22 minutes or so.
While the pancake bakes, make the gribiche. Into a small bowl, finely grate the zest of half the lemon. Slice the lemon in half, then squeeze all of its juice into the bowl, keeping back any seeds. Stir the shallots into the juice, along with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Peel the eggs; slice each in half and separate the whites from the yolks. Finely dice the whites and reserve. Using a fork, mash the yolks into the shallots with the mustard. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, mashing and whisking the yolk all the while to emulsify. Fold in the capers, herbs, cornichons, and reserved egg whites. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.
Fold the asparagus into the gribiche. When the pancake is ready, top with the eggs, asparagus and gribiche, tucking in a few slices of ham, and a clutch of sprouts. Eat straight away.