My dear friend runs the fabulous restaurant The Nomad in New York City and I love eating there because the uber-talented chef, Daniel Humm's cooking is totally inspiring. Though everything truly was noteworthy, the poached egg stayed with me, because it was an effortless dish executed ever so elegantly. A perfectly poached egg arrived at our table surrounded by tender asparagus, crunchy quinoa, and a savory brown butter zabaglione.
I don’t normally take a page directly from other chefs but felt an immediate need to recreate this poached egg — it felt like a doable yet impressive dish we should all have it in our wheel house. To make it even easier, I modified it by nixing the zabaglione and adding in some aged balsamic vinegar instead.
Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange rack in the upper third.
If making the quinoa and eggs ahead, don’t warm the oven until you want to make the asparagus.
For the quinoa: Bring 3 cups of water and a few pinches of salt to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until you can see the curlicue in each grain and it is tender to the bite, about 15 minutes. If the water is not entirely absorbed, drain any excess.
Can be made through this step up to 4 days in advance. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to use.
If you want some extra crunch (which I highly recommend), go ahead and toast the quinoa. To do so, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add half of the quinoa and stir occasionally until about half of the quinoa is toasted and golden brown. Repeat with remaining quinoa.
For the egg: Fill a large frying pan with 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. There should be a lot of small bubbles on the bottom of the pan and, if you want to be super precise, take the water temperature – it should be between 185 and 200°F. Break each egg into a separate small cup or ramkin. Fill a large bowl with warm water and set aside.
If using, add the vinegar to the water (it helps the egg set quickly). Working one at a time, gently slide three of the eggs into the simmering water. (If the top of the egg peeks out of the water, gently spoon some water over the top to help it cook evenly.) Cook until whites are just set, about 4 minutes. Lift eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl of warm water to keep warm.
Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Store refrigerated in cold water. To rewarm, dip in simmering water until warmed through, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
For the asparagus: Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard them. On a large baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the remaining oil and some salt and pepper. Spread the asparagus out on the baking sheet and roast until just tender when pierced with a knife, anywhere from 5 minutes for thin asparagus to 10 minutes for thick.
If desired, cut asparagus into 1-inch lengths. Just before serving, melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat; cook , stirring frequently, to prevent burning until it smells toasty and nutty and is a deep golden brown (around the same color as peanut butter) about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vinegar until well incorporated. Taste and add more vinegar, if desired. Add half of the balsamic-brown butter sauce to the asparagus, tossing well to coat.
To serve: Divide quinoa among 6 plates, scatter asparagus among dishes. Scatter the asparagus among the dishes then top each plate with one poached egg. Drizzle remaining balsamic brown butter over the top, top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and, if desired, some freshly ground black pepper, and serve.
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