Monday, 9 January 2012

Boursin Spinach Toasts (Near-Bennies)

Does anyone else get thoroughly sick of their own cooking? I do – it hit me especially hard after Christmas this year, with the fridge full of foil wrapped packets and bowls of leftovers, all pulling hard on my conscience to not waste any of it. Many days of leftovers and turkey soup later, I was nearly ready to crack.
Friday afternoon saw me in town needing to run a few errands, get a few groceries and pick E up from school. And then I was desperately trying to avoid buying garbagey things for supper or at least snacks, things that would taste like nothing I cook myself. I don’t mind eating out from time to time, but I hate paying what seems like too much money these days for very ho-hum, no-friend-to-my-arteries food (to be clear: I’ve nothing against indulgent food on occasion – I just can’t stand it when it’s crap). A good solution to the hate-my-own-cooking conundrum is to find an appealing recipe and follow it exactly. No boosting this, cutting out that – because that’s how things start tasting like everything else I cook. But all that blind faith takes energy, and I just didn’t have it.
Fortunately a happy idea presented itself: what about Boursin cheese (see note below) combined with sautéed spinach and some sort of starch? Toasted bread? Before Christmas I had laid in a box of Boursin (Garlic & Fine Herbs) for emergency entertaining. I’m a bit sad that no emergencies came up demanding its immediate consumption with swanky crackers and wine, but hey – at least I had a box of fancy cheese coming to my rescue on Friday night.

The results were gratifying – quick to assemble and sumptuous to eat, it was almost like I hadn't made it myself! As I was licking my fingers, it occurred to me that topping it with a poached egg would be a stroke of Dumbledore-like brilliance. Or possibly a reversion to Julie-like brilliance – after all it was she who introduced me to the delights of poached eggs with sautéed spinach. I suspect that Julie is the more trustworthy of the two when it comes to culinary matters anyway.
Saturday lunch and Sunday breakfast saw a repeat of the Boursin spinach toasts plus a poached egg. It seems very like Eggs Benedict to me, with the Boursin taking the place of the hollandaise. Let me know what you think.
Note: This post is no way sponsored by the makers of Boursin. I can assure you they have no idea I exist.

Near-Bennies (or just Boursin Spinach toasts if you don't want to include the egg)
Easy to make for just one, or for many more. My only cautionary note is regarding the spinach: you really want quite a large diameter pan for not too much spinach, otherwise the water released from the leaves will end up pooling rather than instantly boiling away. It’s probably best if you sauté in batches if you’re doing a lot, or at the very least be careful to squish the liquid out of the wilted spinach and pour it away before adding cream or piling it on toast.

If you go without the egg, you may want to give the spinach toast a quick pass under the broiler, just to get the cheese nice and melty (watch it closely – it may not even take a full minute).
Per toast you will need:
1 thick slice of niceish bread (I used Superstore’s focaccia – though if you can go more upmarket why the hell not I say)
Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb cheese, about 1/5 to 1/4 of the 150g (5 oz) box
olive or canola oil for cooking
2 or 3 big handfuls of fresh spinach
1 small garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper to taste
one or two teaspoons of cream (probably not strictly necessary, but I liked it)
slivered fresh basil, or a few thyme leaves (optional)
one poached egg (for anyone interested I’ve included a description of the poaching method I use  below)
Toast the bread and spread it liberally with the Boursin. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a little oil, add the spinach and cook until wilted and starting to reduce substantially in volume, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the garlic, a little salt and pepper, and the cream and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat, but keep the spinach spread out over the surface of the pan so that the liquid from the spinach can evaporate. Set aside while you poach the egg.
When your egg is about a minute away from being cooked, pile the spinach on the Boursin covered toast, sprinkle with the slivers of basil, then top with the poached egg. Add a little salt and pepper on top if you like (keep in mind that the cheese is quite salty) and eat it straight away.

To poach an egg:
Poaching works best with a fairly fresh egg – it will stay more compact when slipped into the water. 
Start with the egg at room temperature: warm it up in a bowl of warm water if necessary.
Heat about an inch and a half of water in a pan (I use a skillet, but not cast iron) until it’s just barely simmering, then reduce the heat to low. You want the water to stay close to a simmer, but not actually moving (no bubbles forming, but steam still escaping the surface). Crack the egg, and gently slip it into the water, being careful not to set the water in motion as you do so (go slowly!).
I find at my elevation (5300’) that three and half minutes will result in an egg I’m happy with: runny yolk but set white. Since not too many folks live at such high altitudes (water boils at a lower temperature up here, which means longer cooking times), try checking at a little under three minutes if you’re at sea level, and increasing the time as you go up in elevation. Obviously the starting temperature of the egg and its size will also be factors to consider. When the egg is poached to your liking, gently loosen it from the bottom of the pan with a flat metal spatula if necessary, then remove it from the water with a slotted spoon. I like to rest the underside of the slotted spoon on a clean tea towel for a moment or two, which helps blot up excess water.


  1. Ooh ooh oooh!! Love it!! I was just eyeing a box of Boursin a few hours ago, wishing I had an excuse to buy some.. now I do! so brilliant!

  2. I feel the same way abut my cooking and I think my husband does too, when we go out he "wants something different." I enjoy going out but when I know I can put a better meal together at home I get rather frustrated. This looks wonderful!

  3. What happened to this blog? I just found (and made) the plum tart here, and I was going to read up, and... no more posts? The plum tart is DELICIOUS by the way.