Breakfast salads are a fantastic way to start the day. I make them with regular poached eggs during the week, but on weekends I like to use leftover red or white wine (it happens sometimes) to dress them up a little. The wine infuses the eggs with a light, fragrant flavor, and if you use red wine, it also tints the eggs an intriguing pink color. The salad is delicious with or without the wine option, and is also quite nutritious-you get protein, healthy fats, and fiber. If you feel like you need a little something extra, throw in some avocado or a piece of toast on the side.
Salad Greens, 1-2 cups per person Saucy Note: I usually prefer arugula for breakfast salads, but the selection at the market this week was a little wilted so I opted for crunchy but flavorful red leaf lettuce.
Eggs, 1-2 per person
Fresh lemon juice or vinegar (I like balsamic or wine vinegars)
Salt Since this dish is so bright and simple, it’s a great place to try out special salts-different salts have various textures and subtleties that are fun to explore. My personal favorites for this dish are Sel Gris (grey French sea salt) or smoked salt, and recently I discovered a really fantastic mushroom infused salt that adds great dimension to the whole dish. I think salt is one of the most crucial elements of a dish, and should not be overlooked as a simple condiment.
Vinegar for poaching liquid
Poaching liquid, about 3 inches deep in a straight sided sauté pan or medium skillet
*Saucy Note: Water is fine as poaching liquid-just add about a ¼ cup of vinegar to keep egg whites together. If using wine, you only need a little to impart flavor, but more red wine is better if you’re trying to get the eggs to turn color. I sometimes plan ahead for this dish and buy a liter bottle of decent Italian or French wine, especially if they’re on sale. The eggs are extra good if the poaching liquid is composed of only wine, even if it’s a little decadent. Try it for a group as brunch to make it worth the cost. You should also still add a splash of vinegar to the wine-I like to use the corresponding color of wine vinegar.
Bring poaching liquid to a gentle simmer-I usually heat it over high heat to begin with, then turn it down once it starts to bubble. You want a slow simmer-just a little slower than constant small bubbles.
While poaching liquid is heating, wash and tear lettuce. If preparing before work or in another short amount of time, you can prep the lettuce ahead of time. A salad spinner is the best way-wash and tear an entire head of lettuce into bite size pieces, then spin in colander to remove excess water. Drain bowl, then return colander insert to bowl for storage. Covered in the fridge, lettuce lasts for several days like this without wilting. You can also wash and dry lettuce, then layer pieces with paper towels in a plastic bag. The lettuce stays fresh for a day or two that way.
When poaching liquid is settled at the appropriate temperature, crack 1-2 eggs in a small ramekin or bowl. Gently slide the egg(s) in by dipping the edge of the ramekin into the liquid and tipping it carefully into the liquid. Set timer for 3-4 minutes. Adjust temperature if bubbling slows too much. Repeat with remaining servings of eggs-if serving several people, use a large skillet or do in several batches.
While eggs are poaching, dress salad greens. In a bowl large enough to hold all the servings of lettuce, drizzle in about ½ tbsp. olive oil per cup of greens. Squeeze a lemon wedge or sprinkle on little wine vinegar to taste, add salt, and toss by hand. Place neat handfuls of salad in shallow bowls.
When timer sounds, remove eggs with a slotted spoon or strainer in the same order you added them to the poaching liquid. The yolks should still look soft and glisten, but the whites should be set and not runny. Use a few folded paper towels to gently pat away excess liquid-don’t burst the yolk!
Gently place poached egg on top of salad greens. Sprinkle on a little more salt and a healthy grind of black pepper.
Last Saucy Note:
This is obviously a very basic salad, but that’s part of the appeal-it is easily made in under ten minutes. If you have a little more time, things like sautéed mushrooms (use a splash of wine to deglaze), grilled vegetables, chopped tomatoes, or crumbles of goat cheese really liven it up.