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This post is brought to you in collaboration with BC Egg, who have financially compensated me to produce this recipe.
All opinions are my own.
Breakfast with your name on it. You know you’ve made it when. Eggs Sardou was invented at the famed New Orleans institution Antoine’s in honour of visiting French dramatist Victorien Sardou. I don’t know if Sardou was particularly fond of the combination of artichokes, creamed spinach, hollandaise, and poached eggs, or if Antoine’s simply felt that it was a delightfully decadent dish that the esteemed writer would enjoy. Either way, it’s a fantastic dish, loaded with flavour and character, and a great way to shake things up if you’re in a bit of an Eggs Benedict rut. My recipe doesn’t depart too heavily from the classic Creole creation, with it’s mixture of classically French and American components, but I do double-down on the artichokes because I think they deserve a truly starring role. In addition to the simmered artichoke bottom, I’ve incorporated chopped artichokes into the creamed spinach to better tie the flavours together and highlight the lovely spring vegetable.
Sardou certainly wasn’t the only person lucky enough to be honoured with a customized recipe. The practice of naming foods after people dates back to antiquity, and while it’s safe to assume that many famously named dishes have disappeared from memory, there are still a handful of ancient examples kicking around. Dongpo Rou, for example, was named in honour of Chinese poet Su Shi (aka Su Dongpo) who lived more than a thousand years ago. But the 19th and early 20th centuries seem to have been an absolute heyday for restaurants and chefs looking to immortalize famous customers on their menus. Royals were frequently honoured with eponymous recipes; Pizza Margherita (Queen Margherita of Savoy), Veal Oscar (King Oscar II of Sweden), Princess Cake (Swedish princesses Margaretha, Märtha, and Astrid), and of course the sandwich (John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich) remain popular to this day, having easily outlived their contemporaneous honorees. But artists, rich folks, and even regular customers have also had the good fortune to see their names emblazoned on menus. Australian soprano Nellie Melba is perhaps best remembered today for the toast and the dessert named in her honour, while Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova is now immortalized by a meringue-and-fruit concoction. New Orleans has been a big supporter of the tradition; Oysters Rockefeller (also from Antoine’s) and Bananas Foster famously originated from restaurants there. These are just some of the recipes named in honour of living people mind you – the list expands enormously if we consider recipes named after their creators, or in honour of long-dead famous people.
I couldn’t help but wonder – do we name recipes after famous people any more? The trend really seems to have hit its stride during the era of visiting dignitaries and touring artistes, but it seems less popular to me these days. Perhaps modern celebrities are more likely to develop their own branded foods and dishes these days – or it may be that there simply aren’t that many long-living ‘institutional’ restaurants out there following the old practice. Then again, we simply may have to wait to see if anything sticks in the collective consciousness. Maybe one day we’ll be using our Google brain-implants to share the haptic-feedback senso-images of Pizza Beyonce with other members of our social media hive-mind collective. Dystopian fiction is big these days – maybe we’ll enjoy a nice plate of Atwood’s Chickie-Nobs. Then again, it could be that the food naming trend has gone in a different direction altogether. The only recipe I could think of that’s been named for someone famous in recent years is, Pizza Berlusconi, and it’s not exactly named in a complimentary fashion. Back in 2005, then-Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi commented on ‘enduring’ the cuisine of Finland, and that the Finns ate only ‘marinated reindeer.’ This jibe didn’t sit too well with Finnish pizza chain Kotipizza, so they decided to name a pie in his honour. The rye-crust based pizza is topped with smoked reindeer, cheese, chanterelles, and red onions. It’s become quite popular, much to the chagrin of the Italian consulate in Finland, who demanded a name change on the grounds that Kotipizza was benefiting from the use of Berlusconi’s name. Kotipizza saw things differently, and the name remains in place. Apparently the Prime Minister was invited to come and try it himself, but declined. I’m not sure why – it sounds delicious to me. Perhaps he’s been too busy dealing with a near-constant stream of controversies and court cases. I suppose at the end of the day it’s worth respecting the power of an influential restaurant. Make an impression on one, and you might just be immortalized on the menu – for better or for worse.
Eggs Sardou isn’t so much one recipe as it is a mashup of several mini recipes. As such, there are lots of possible variations and tips to give you, and the particular cooking/prep methods you choose to use will depend somewhat on your equipment and time constraints. The basic printable recipe below covers primary methods for each part of the recipe, but I would strongly encourage you to read through this section to see if there’s a variation that’s better suited to your kitchen.
The artichokes are just an ingredient in this recipe, but unlike most vegetables, the complexity involved in preparing them can be a little intimidating. The primary instructions below don’t go into detail on how to prepare fresh artichokes from scratch, as it’s really one of those things that you don’t want to skim over. This section will give you some information on preparing artichokes, as well as info about more hands-off options like frozen artichoke bottoms. For more detail, check the links at the end of this section.
Artichoke Bottoms vs. Hearts – First things first, let’s talk about what an artichoke bottom is, exactly. You’ve probably heard of artichoke hearts, but the bottoms aren’t as commonly used these days. Artichoke bottoms are the tender, bowl-like lower portions of the artichoke left behind after the tough leaves and the fibrous choke removed. Artichoke hearts are basically the same thing, but are frequently cut differently (i.e. into halves or quarters), and may have more of the tender leaf portions intact. Because artichokes bottoms are being used like little bowls for the eggs, you want to try to use those for this recipe. If you only have access to artichoke hearts however, you can modify the presentation and serve the eggs over these instead. Artichoke bottoms and hearts are identical from a flavour perspective, as they’re just different methods of preparing the same portion of the plant.
Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Canned – Fresh artichokes are the best way to go with this recipe, as they give you the most distinctive and delicate flavour, and they let you prepare the artichoke in a way that maximizes the yield for this particular recipe (more on that in the section below on prep). Frozen bottoms are a close second choice, and they definitely take a lot of work out of the process, so don’t be afraid to use these instead. Canned artichoke bottoms can be great, but they would be my third choice in this recipe as they bring a briny character and different taste to the dish. As mentioned above, bowl-like artichoke bottoms are ideal in any case, but you can use halved or quartered hearts if that’s all you have – just make a nest out of the creamed spinach and nestle some artichokes and the poached egg in there.
Basic Artichoke Prep: Artichokes have a reputation for being difficult to prepare, but it’s mostly just a matter of being familiar with the method. Once you’ve done one or two you’ll find they go pretty easily. I’m going to give a basic breakdown here, but refer to the links at the end for a more in-depth explanation, including a great video.
- Prepare a medium saucepan by filling it with about 1 liter of water, along about 1 tbsp lemon juice and a little olive oil.
- Prepare artichokes by removing and peeling the stalks, trimming away the coarse outer leaves, slicing off the tender upper portion, and scooping out the choke. Don’t go crazy trying to get the choke out; the last bits of it may be easier to get out after cooking.
- Add trimmed artichoke bottoms, stalks, and tender leaves to a saucepan with water, lemon juice, and olive oil. Be sure to add each one as you finish trimming, as the lemony water will keep the artichokes from browning.
- Simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to cold/icy water.
- Remove remaining choke. Set aside the artichoke bottoms and use the cooked stalks (cut the stalks in half to scoop out the non-fibrous portion) and leaves for the creamed spinach below.
Note that if you do prep your own fresh artichokes, it really is worth salvaging the extra soft leaves and the soft core of the stem to use in the creamed spinach. You may also find that you can get semi-soft leaves that are good for eating with dip (i.e. the classic way, by biting the leaf and digging out the soft stuff), but that you don’t want to use for this recipe. No worries – just whip up a nice little dip, or eat them with the extra hollandaise. Given how much of an artichoke isn’t eaten, you might as well get every little bit out that you can!
If you’re brand new to artichoke prep, I do strongly recommend a more detailed walkthrough. This video from Chef Jacques Pepin is my personal favourite. This pictorial tutorial from Serious Eats is also excellent, and it covers some methods other than the one we’re using here.
There are plenty of creamed spinach recipes out there, but there are two key factors that I think are important to focus on here. First of all, this isn’t just creamed spinach – it’s spinach and artichoke. I figure that if you’re going to go to use artichokes (a lovely but fairly subtle flavour) you might as well double down a bit and tie them into more than one aspect of the dish. However, if you don’t have extra artichokes to use for this aspect of the recipe you can omit them and just increase the amount of spinach to around 500 g (about 18 ounces). The second thing that’s worth noting is that the flour roux plays a big roll in the character of the dish. A lot of recipes for creamed spinach call for cream or cream cheese, presumably out of desire to avoid making roux. I don’t like this method because a) foods thickened with roux are smooth and creamy without being rich, and b) those other methods add a TON of calories to a recipe. Don’t be worried about using flour here – it’s honestly quite easy, especially given that we’re only lightly cooking the roux. The instructions go over it in detail below, but I will mention that you needn’t worry about the flour clumping up when added to the butter – just do your best to spread the mixture evenly around the pan and keep the heat fairly low. If things start to get too toasty too quickly, you can add a bit more butter or just move on to adding the milk.
Given that this is actually creamed spinach AND artichoke, let’s talk about how to add those artichokes. If you’re preparing fresh artichokes, you don’t need to buy a whole extra one. Instead, use the trimmed tender leaves and the cores of the stalks leftover from turning the bottoms to make up what you need. There should be more than enough there for our purposes. If you’re using frozen artichokes then you can chop up an extra one. Look for a broken one, or any pieces at the bottom of the bag. Lastly, if you’re using canned artichokes, I would personally omit them from this step and simply increase the amount of spinach to about 500 g instead. The acid tang of canned artichokes can be a bit overwhelming and you don’t want to overdo it with this creamy and relatively delicate recipe.
While there is a small ingredient-tweak here (hot sauce for that Cajun feel), we’re not exactly going to reinvent the wheel. I’d encourage you to check out BC Egg’s Hollandaise recipe for some technique information if you need it. I will discuss a few variations on the technique, including my personal favourite method – the immersion blender method. Honestly, it’s the best method out there for Hollandaise (and for homemade mayonnaise!).
Immersion Blender Method – If you’ve got an immersion blender, you’re in for a treat. If you don’t… well, you should get one, because they’re one of the few kitchen appliances that manages to be cheap, space-efficient, and surprisingly useful. In this method, the Hollandaise ingredients (minus melted butter) are simple combined in a container that fits the immersion blender head. I use the one that came with my blender, but anything close will do. Start mixing the ingredients, then slowly pour in the melted butter while running the mixer. Keep going until everything is added and combined, and you’ve got Hollandaise. It really is that easy.
Blender Method – A close second in terms of ease, as long as you’ve got a small enough blender container. As much as I love my big Vitamix, it’s too large for this little batch of Hollandaise (and I definitely don’t need to triple the recipe). As with the immersion blender method, you’re going to blend all of the ingredients first before slowly pouring in the melted butter. Note that this method does NOT require a high-speed/power blender.
Stovetop Method – The traditional method. It takes a bit longer, but it’s still fairly easy as long as you don’t mind whisking. Place all of the ingredients except the butter in a small bowl and whisk until airy and well-combined. Set up a double boiler (or small glass/stainless steel bowl floating in a pot of water on the stove). Heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the colour becomes paler yellow, increases in volume, and thickens somewhat. Remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the melted butter until the whole thing is smooth, well-combined, and thick.
Regardless of the method you use, you want to make your Hollandaise right before serving if possible. It doesn’t keep very well as it cools, so it’s best to have it made when you’re more-or-less ready to get all of the other ingredients on the plate.
See what I mean about this being a recipe made up of mini-recipes? Poached eggs are on of those kitchen basics that seems to give a lot of people a hard time. As a result, there are tons of supposed tricks out there designed to make poaching an egg easier. I personally think most of the gimmicks aren’t actually terribly helpful, and some of them just add a layer of complexity that you don’t really need to worry about. BC Egg has a good overview of egg poaching here (along with other cooking methods), so if you’re relatively new to this check it out. For my part, I want to just go over the basic method, and the one ‘trick’ I actually do like (spoiler alert: it’s not much of a trick). I’ll also go over poaching eggs in advance and finishing them later, as that method makes this (and other breakfast/brunch recipes) much easier to get on the table in a timely fashion.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a low simmer. You want the water to be deep enough that your egg won’t bang right into the bottom of the pot and cook/stick/cause a disaster.
- Crack a room temperature egg into a small bowl.
- Here’s the one trick I do like: use a large spoon to stir the water in order to get a bit of a ‘whirlpool’ effect going in the middle of the pot. No need to go crazy – you want the water moving just enough to basically ‘trap’ the egg in the center of the pot.
- Pour the cracked egg into the center of the pot. Try not to bother it while it starts cooking, though you can keep gently stirring outside of it in order to keep the water moving.
- Cook the egg to your desired level of doneness, then gently remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon. If you’re precooking your eggs and finishing them later, you want to very slightly undercook them at this stage (more that in a moment).
There you have it. I’ve tried vinegar in the water but never felt it made much of an impact. I’ve also tried briefly flash-boiling the eggs in their shells to start cooking the white before the egg is cracked, but I found that made it much to hard to cleanly crack and pour out the eggs. Basically, keep it simple. The simple truth is that you have to think of the egg white as two separate things (because it is): the thin outer albumen layer is hard to poach properly, and tends to partially escape as little whispy bits in the water, no matter what you do. The thick inner albumen is a lot more forgiving, and will tend to stay close to the yolk.
If you’re intimidated by poaching eggs, don’t stress yourself out. It may sound like sacrilege, but don’t be afraid to use other methods that you’re comfortable with including microwaving, using egg cups in the pot, etc. Heck, you could even soft boil an egg and serve it with all the other ingredients. It’s your brunch – do what you want to.
Pre-Poaching and Reheating
This is one of the best little breakfast tricks out there. Given all of the components and steps involved in this recipe, the last thing you want to do is to try to poach 8 eggs to order, one at a time, just as you’re ready to serve everything else. It’s a timing nightmare. Instead, poach the eggs ahead of time, but take them out of the water when they’re just slightly undercooked. Transfer them to an ice-water bath and set them aside. When you’re ready to finish things up and serve, bring a large pot of water to a simmer on the stove. Add the eggs back in and cook them in the simmering water for about 2 minutes, or until they’re done to your liking. While you’re doing this, you can also heat up the artichoke bottoms if you’ve precooked them (or if you’re using frozen). The best thing about this method is that you can have all of the eggs ready to go and equally hot at the same time, meaning nobody gets a cold egg or cold Hollandaise.
Finishing it Off
Alright, you’re still with me – now it’s time to stun your guests (or your own tastebuds) by finishing things off with the perfect plate. Everything here is best when served warm, so pre-warmed plates are actually a great way to buy yourself a few extra minutes. Just keep your serving plates in a very low oven until you’re ready to put everything together.
Now let’s talk toppings. I hope you’ve been wondering what that crispy red/orange things is in my pictures. It’s a fried tomato skin! They’re not the most typical way to finish Eggs Sardou, but I wanted to keep things vegetarian and add a pop of colour. If you want to make them yourself they couldn’t be easier – just peel the skin from some large tomatoes (easiest to do by dunking the tomato in boiling water for a couple of minutes), then heat a skillet with some olive oil. Add the skins, cook until crispy and sizzling, and remove from the pan. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and you’re ready to go.
If you don’t feel like adding another step to the recipe (and I don’t blame you), a dusting of paprika and a shot of hot sauce make great garnishes for the dish. You can use smoked paprika if you’re into that too. Want to add a little meat? Little cubes of bacon, lardons, or fried pancetta are all excellent as well.
Maybe it’s because it’s rich, or maybe because it’s showy, but this recipe just screams big-serving-size to me. Brunch for a bunch, if you will. The recipe currently serves 8, but you can easily cut it in half, or even modify it to serve two. The eggs and artichokes are obviously the easiest part to scale, and the Hollandaise is easy enough to reduce in quantity if you’ve got an immersion blender or you follow the stovetop instructions (a small batch can be hard to make in the blender, as the blades might not reach the eggs). The creamed spinach and artichokes can be scaled down to at least a half-recipe, but you might find it a bit harder to go further given the roux step (a very small amount of roux can be hard to cook). Good news though – the creamed spinach keeps very well, and makes for awesome leftovers. Seriously, a lot of people make it expressly for the leftovers. So go nuts, and enjoy the fruits (vegetables?) of your labours for more than one meal.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1 egg, artichoke bottom, and 1/8 portion of hollandaise and creamed spinach).
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
A classic New Orleans brunch recipe, made with poached eggs, served over artichoke bottoms and creamed spinach and topped with Hollandaise sauce. This recipe doubles down on the deliciousness of artichokes by using the tender stalk trimmings to add more flavour to the creamed spinach.
- 8 large eggs
- 8 medium artichoke bottoms (see note for fresh vs. frozen or canned)
- 350 g spinach (12-13 oz)
- 85 g chopped artichoke (3 oz; ~1/2 cup) (see note for fresh vs. frozen)
- 60 g butter (4 Tbsp) separated into 1 and 3 tbsp portions
- 40 g onion minced (1/4 cup)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 65 g flour (1/2 cup)
- 350 ml milk (1.5 cups) preferably whole-fat
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- pinch pepper to taste
- pinch nutmeg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)
- dash Tabasco sauce or other similar hot sauce
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup butter (8 tbsp/1 stick/113 grams)
Poach eggs to just below desired level of doneness, then set aside in ice bath (alternatively, cook at the end). Reheat in warm water along with artichoke bottoms later - about 45 seconds to 1 minute (see 'To Serve' below)
If you're using frozen artichoke bottoms, allow them to come to room temperature or warm them up a bit in a warm-water bath. Chop enough artichoke bottoms to yield 85 g (about 1/2 cup) for the next step, but ensure that you have enough left to serve all of the eggs on.
Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil. Cook the spinach for about 2 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Chop the spinach and drain the water again, squeezing to get as much moisture out as possible. Set aside with chopped artichokes.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic in butter until the onions are translucent but not browned; about 5-6 minutes.
Add flour to the pan, mix and cook for about 2 minutes. The resulting roux may be very thick, but this is ok. Do your best to spread it around the pan and keep the heat low enough to avoid scorching the roux.
Add milk, cook on low temp for about 5 minutes. Do not boil!
Stir in spinach, artichoke, spices, and cream. Set aside but keep warm.
(Blender or immersion blender version - see notes for stovetop version)
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Keep warm.
Combine remaining ingredients in a small blender or food processor, or in a container that fits the head of an immersion blender (I prefer the immersion blender).
Blend ingredients together. While blending, slowly pour in butter, a little at a time. Once entirely combined, adjust to taste with salt or lemon juice if needed. Use as soon as possible.
Bring a pot of water to a low simmer.
Heat up the artichoke bottoms in the simmering water, and finish the eggs (about 1 minute).
On a warmed plate, serve creamed spinach topped with an artichoke bottom and a poached egg. Top with Hollandaise and garnish of your choice (e.g. a bit of Tabasco sauce, some paprika, and/or fried tomato skins). Serve immediately.