Sometimes space can liquify. Sometimes, there is almost no distinction between objects and the space they inhabit, or the space that inhabits them, and sometimes space is palpable. The space that's instantly charged when it's bookended by two people in the throws of infatuation, the intervals between naked branches that form their own irregular shapes on the sidewalk when the sun passes through. When it is very hot or very cold, space can be heavy or biting, but it is most definitely present.
What happens when you start with a piece of lightly fried (or toasted) bread, on top of which is perched a lightly poached egg? Two completely separate entities, the quivering yolk still held in place by the thinnest of whites. But when you ladle a rush of broth and spinach, punctuated by pieces of falling potato, space liquifies and boundaries erase. Yolks break apart and everything soaks up everything else.
While the fish bouillabaisse of Marseilles may be more familiar, spinach bouillabaisse is equally traditional and surprisingly satisfying. Although perhaps not that surprising, since the base is that lightly fried piece of day-old bread and a poached egg. One way to take the classic breakfast combination into afternoon and evening.
Adopted from Jill Norman's Winter Food
2 pounds spinach, discard thick stems
Olive oil for the pan, and a bit more for the bread
1 onion, chopped
2 medium sized potatoes, sliced into 1/4" slices
Salt and Pepper
A few saffron threads, crushed in a morter and dissolved in a bit of water
2 garlic cloves, passed through a press
1 bouquet garni (see note)
4 slices bread
Cook the spinach in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain well, reserving the cooking liquid. Measure out 4 cups (maybe a bit more) and keep warm. Wring the spinach out, then chop. In a large pan, heat the oil and sauté the onion for 1 minute. Don't allow to brown. Add the spinach and turn in the oil for 5 minutes over low heat. Add the potatoes, and season with salt, pepper and the saffron. Add all of this into the still-warm cooking liquid.
Add the garlic and the bouquet garni/herbs in a tea bag, cover the pot and simmer over low until the potatoes are cooked.
Remove and discard the bouquet garni. In the meantime, heat a bit of oil in a pan and lightly fry the bread. Poach the eggs in the soup, this will take about 3-4 minutes.
To serve, place a piece of fried bread in the bottom of each soup bowl, and a poached egg on top of each slice of bread. Ladle the soup over the top and enjoy.
* I didn't have a bouquet garni, so I put a bay leaf, some herbs de provence, some dried thyme and a bit of rubbed sage into an empty tea bag and allowed it to steep in the soup. Amounts are up to you based on what you like!
* The easiest way to poach an egg is to break each egg individually into a small dish like a ramekin and then edge it into the soup. I submerged one side of the ramekin so that the broth filled it up, and then just slid it out from under the egg.
* Rather than use canned stock or plain water, I drained the spinach and reserved the water it was cooked in, then measured out 4+ cups for the soup.
* Need something even quicker and easier? Buy baby spinach, boil in the water and skip the straining/cutting/sautéing step. Simply add the rest of the ingredients as written to the boiled spinach in its cooking liquid.