And then there’s eggs. I’m always up for a new egg experience. There was a while when I was searching out what was supposed to be the ne plus ultra of farm fresh eggs from Tuscan Paolo Parisi. Although I’m sure his eggs, with their luscious yolks and rich taste, are still great, these days my farmer’s market has one egg vendor whose eggs rival those of Parisi.
I make sure I pick up at least a dozen of his eggs, which are laid by Livornesi hens. One of his eggs, perfectly soft boiled (I’m a four and a half minute girl) is my go to breakfast.
But last week he had a treat: a big basket full of duck eggs. My motto, when it comes to these types of opportunities is to buy first, ask later. So as I was happily paying for my half dozen duck eggs,I asked how he would suggest using them. “They have a sweeter taste” he told me, “Almost a bit like almonds. They are great for baking.” So I scooted over to the flour lady and bought the ingredients to make this cake.
Somehow I never got around to the baking, but I did use four of the eggs to make this terrific salad. It’s my updated version of the spinach salad I grew up with. Instead of bacon, I used pancetta (surprised? ). And rather than hard boil the eggs, like my mother always did, I fried them sunny side up, in the pancetta fat, with the whites a bit crispy at the edges and the yolks nicely runny.
Little baby leaves of spinach, lots of crunchy pancetta niblets and a dressing made with pork fat and white wine vinegar was, I think, the perfect way to honor these special eggs. The yolks were even richer than the hen eggs I’m used to, and the creamy texture of the still runny, thick, yolks made the salad extraordinary.
Luckily the egg guy seems to have made a regular thing of the duck eggs. So I was able to buy six more this week. Which means I still have a chance to make that cake.
- ½ pound / 250 grams washed baby spinach leaves
- 3 thick slices of pancetta, cut into small cubes
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 4 duck eggs
- 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- Place the cut up pancetta into a frying pan big enough to fry all four eggs later. Cook the pancetta over low heat until it has given up all it’s fat and has become somewhat crispy. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, to a small glass bowl.
- Add the chopped shallots to the hot fat, and let cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 4 spoonfuls of the pork fat and put it in a small glass bowl.
- Crack the eggs into the remaining pork fat and cook until the whites are completely cooked and beginning to brown at the edges. But make sure the yolk doesn’t break and remains soft.
- In the meantime add the vinegar and mustard to the bacon fat, and stir.
- Toss the spinach leaves with the still warm dressing, along with the pancetta and any fat that is in that small bowl. Add salt and pepper and adjust for taste.
- Divide the dressed salad between two bowls, and place two eggs on top of each and serve.
- Serve with crusty Italian bread.