The History of Eggs Florentine And How To Perfect It

Eggs are eggcellent, right? A restaurant favourite, you will find eggs on almost every menu along with a variety of serving options. Eggs Benedict, for instance, reigns supreme in every American brunch, because of its versatility.

In one version of the history of the Eggs Benedict, the recipe is attributed to Charles Ranhofer, who was the chef of the first restaurant ever opened in the USA in 1860, “Delmonico’s.” 

The history of Eggs Florentine, however, is much more royal than the history of the Benedict, with the recipe dating back to the Renaissance period.

The French are responsible for the coinage of the word “Florentine,” to associate it to spinach. The reason may have been that Catherine de Medici, whose birthplace was Florence, introduced spinach to French cuisine after she married Prince Henry of France. The spinach in Eggs Florentine would therefore take the place of the ham in the Eggs Benedict recipe.

As for the sauce, the Mornay is essentially a cheese sauce. The poached eggs are the same on both recipes. In Florentine, however, they can be also scrambled or boiled.

Creamed spinach is spooned onto rounds of buttered toast and topped with poached eggs and the cheesy sauce. Complete this morish brunch with some chopped chives.


For the sauce

  •  3 large egg yolks
  •  2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  Squeeze fresh lemon juice

For the eggs Florentine

  •  2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  1/4 cup heavy cream
  •  10 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  Freshly ground nutmeg
  •  2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  •  4 large eggs
  •  4 slices buttered toast
  •  Cress or chives, finely chopped, for garnish


Make the sauce

  1. Place a saucepan of water over medium heat. You want the water to be simmering, not boiling. Place a heatproof bowl containing the egg yolks over but not touching the pan of water. Start whisking immediately.
  2. Slowly add the butter to the egg yolks, a few pieces at a time, whisking vigorously until it’s incorporated before adding more butter. Keep the temperature beneath the butter on low and take your time, adding the butter very slowly. The key thing here is low and slow so the eggs do not scramble. Instead, you want to emulsify the egg and butter together.
  3. Keep cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If it gets too thick, add a splash of cold water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a squeeze lemon juice for a touch of sharpness to smooth out that creamy richness.

Make and assemble the eggs Florentine

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Pour in the heavy cream, and let simmer for a minute or so, until it starts to reduce and thicken. Throw in the spinach leaves and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until the leaves have wilted. Pull the skillet from the heat and season the spinach with salt, pepper, and the nutmeg.
  2. Fill a deepish saucepan with about 3 inches water and bring it to a gentle, not rolling, boil. Add the vinegar and stir to make a whirlpool effect. Crack the 4 eggs carefully into the pot. The whirlpool and the vinegar will help each egg white stay together rather than stretch into some ghastly amoeba-like shape.
  3. Simmer the eggs for 2 to 3 minutes. You’re aiming for a wobbly but well-cooked white with a runny yolk. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the eggs to a paper towel-lined plate to soak up the excess water.
  4. Top the buttered toast with the creamed spinach. If you’ve got the time and the inclination, you can cut the toast into circles just slightly larger than the egg using a biscuit cutter. Carefully place an egg on top of each stack and spoon a generous helping of sauce on top. Garnish the eggs Florentine with the cress or chives.