I have definitely had brunch on the brain this week since New Yorkers have been going through the scare of a lifetime—for 72-hours we thought that bottomless brunch was illegal. I don’t know how the internet rumor got started, but I’m just glad it has been dispelled. For the seven years I’ve lived here, bottomless brunch, the sacred institution that provides for unlimited mimiosas/sangria/belinis with your brunch order, has been the center of my summer social life. I’m not sure I can think of a warm weekend in the last three years that I haven’t enjoyed a bottomless brunch with 5-15 of my nearest and dearest. Its not just me though — bottomless brunch is the one thing that ties all New Yorkers together. Beyond differences in race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion and disagreement about the Knicks vs. Nets, we share those sacred two hours on weekends when we eat mediocre food and drink more cheap champagne than our bodies can handle.
But every once in a while, when you happen to have a case of Andre champagne sitting around and your favorite brunch spot can’t give you a last minute reservation, its nice to make brunch at home. On those days I like to make something light enough to make sure we still feel good in our sun dresses, but hearty enough to absorb some of the champagne fizz.
This combination of asparagus, polenta, leeks and eggs fits the bill. The best thing about this recipe is that every component, including the poached eggs, can be prepared hours before you guests arrive, and then quickly heated up and assembled. Don’t be scared of poaching eggs… as usual, I have a couple of tips that will make the process easier:
1) Cook your eggs in a shallow water bath. Whether you’re using a sauce pan to poach 1-2 eggs or using a large skillet to make a bigger batch, your water should only go up about 1.5 -2 inches.
2) Don’t forget to add vinegar to your water before adding the eggs. The acidity in the vinegar causes the eggs to coagulate faster so you have fewer whispy feathery bits of egg whites in the water.
3) Use fresh, cold eggs. They have tighter egg whites, making them easier to poach.
4) Dont crack your eggs directly into the water. Crack them into a small bowl or ramekin and then gently slide them from the bowl into the water.
5) Keep your water at a low simmer. Anything more than that will be rough on the eggs and makes it harder to get that great oval shape.
6) If you are making a lot of poached eggs, or you want to prepare them ahead of time (up to one day), after you remove your eggs from the water put them into ice water for a few minutes before transferring them to a plate. When you are ready to serve them, place them into simmering water for about one minute— just enough time to warm through.
BONUS TIP! There is something called the “vortex method” that I swear by. When you are only making one egg at a time, use a spoon to start swirling the water into a vortex and then drop your egg into the middle of that vortex.
- 1 cup of polenta
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of milk
- 4 leaks
- 1 pound of asparagus
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- white vinegar
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- For the Asparagus: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay the asparagus out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until it is tender.
- For the Polenta: In a large saucepan bring the water, the milk, and a heavy pinch of salt to a low boil over high heat. Immediately lower the heat to medium. Pour the polenta into the liquid while continuously whisking (or stirring). Continue to whisk for about 5 minutes, until the polenta starts to thicken. Cook for 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more milk if needed. Add parmesan if desired. Remove from heat and cover.
- For the Leeks: Slice just the white part of the leaks into ¼ inch rounds and place into a large bowl of water. After 5 minutes drain and dry the leaks. Heat the butter, along with an equal amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the leaks and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the leeks are tender and have begun to caramelize.
- For the Eggs: In a sauce pan (1-2 eggs) or large skillet (3+ eggs), bring about 2 inches of water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow the water to gently simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (2 if using a skillet) and a pinch of salt to the water. Crack an egg into a small bowl and then, with the edge of the bowl as close as possible to the water, gently but quickly pour the egg from the bowl into the water. Allow to cook for 4-5 minutes* and then remove with a slotted spoon.
- To assemble: Place a serving of polenta in the middle of a plate and top with a large spoonful of the leeks and a few spears of asparagus. Gently place a poached egg on top.