You may be looking at these photos, and the recipe title, and saying, “Wait a second. You’re making oven-roasted veggies… in June? Haven’t you spent the last three summers complaining about the difficulty of cooking in the heat?” And to that, I would respond: yes, I know. And you’re right—I have been insufferably whiny about summer cooking conditions ever since I started this blog. However, I’m in a new apartment now, and while we still don’t have central air (that probably won’t happen unless we move out of the city or suddenly strike it rich), we do have a small built-in air conditioner in the living room, which is technically the same room as the kitchen. I’m not saying it’s necessarily comfortable to crank up the oven now, but it also no longer puts my life at risk; thus, my meal planning possibilities have broadened considerably.
That’s particularly fortunate, given the abundance of über-seasonal vegetables available at the moment. I’ve already shown you ramps once this year, and garlic scapes are right around the corner. But this month, we’ve also had fiddleheads, tiny young fern fronds with a faintly lemony, vegetal flavor and a whimsical, “are-you-sure-I-can-actually-eat-this?” appearance. While fiddleheads would make for an interesting side dish on their own, I think the best way to enjoy them is by tossing them with a mixture of your other favorite vegetables and roasting them all together. And you know what makes a plate of vegetables even better? Bacon and eggs. Voilà—instant dinner (or brunch, or any other meal, come to think of it).
One of the best things about cooking this meal is that the ingredients move along in an easy progression; you never have to scramble to cook three ingredients all at once, or coordinate the timing of multiple elements. You can preheat the oven while you prep the potatoes and carrots, and while those roast, you can cook the bacon and prep the remaining veggies. During the last round of roasting, you can chop the cooked bacon and poach the eggs. You might even have enough down time between steps to wash some dishes, if you’re a clean-as-you-go type.
One thing you’ll definitely need to remember, though, is to soak the fiddleheads. As you can imagine, these things hold a lot of dirt, so you’ll want to start cleaning them first thing. Put them in a bowl of cold water and swish them around, then leave them alone until you need them. When it’s time to trim them, remove them from the water one at a time—don’t dump them out, or all the dirt that has sunk to the bottom of the bowl will get sprinkled right back on top.
Also, as you have undoubtedly noticed, this dish requires you to poach an egg. Well, technically, it doesn’t require anything—you can fry the egg, if you prefer, or leave it out entirely, but if you want to poach the egg (and you should), let me tell you how. Like most intimidating kitchen tasks, the best way to learn is by doing. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but now I could probably poach an egg with my eyes closed. I’ve heard about a lot of tricks and tips, like adding vinegar to the simmering water, or swirling the water with a spoon and dropping the egg into the swirl, but I’ve found that none of those things are necessary. The best thing you can do to ensure a good poached egg is to buy the freshest eggs you can. And I don’t even mean that you have to track down just-laid eggs from a local farm—just pick a dozen from the grocery store with the latest expiration date, and you’ll be fine. Put a pot of water over medium heat, and when the water starts to bubble, turn the heat down a few notches to hold it at a simmer. Crack an egg into a small bowl or cup, and holding the cup right at the surface of the simmering water, gently slide the egg into the water. Don’t worry about what it looks like for the first few seconds; after about half a minute, you’ll see that the white is beginning to solidify, and you’ll see less and less of the yolk. Let the egg poach for about three minutes, then remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on a paper towel. Simple as that.
This is one of those dishes that I was frankly a little nervous to serve to the husband. Not that Alex has any special demands for his evening meals or anything, but I recognize that, when left to my own devices, I tend to eat a bit on the lighter side. However, I am happy to report that this received rave reviews. The veggies provide lots of color and crunch (not to mention health factor); the bacon adds smoke and umami; and the slightly runny egg yolk makes the perfect sauce. It’s completely killer.
And I didn’t even break a sweat making it. Oh, hello, sweet summer.
Roasted Spring Veggies with Bacon and Poached Eggs
(makes 4 servings)
3 medium-sized potatoes (I used two Red Bliss and one Yukon Gold)
2 large carrots
4 generous pinches each of dried oregano, cumin, paprika, and chili powder
florets from one head of broccoli
1 heaping cup fiddleheads
6-8 ramps, greens and white bulbs separated
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and diced
freshly grated black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place fiddleheads in a bowl of cold water and stir them around with your hands. Allow fiddleheads to soak for at least 10 minutes, letting any dirt and grit sink to the bottom of the bowl.
While the oven preheats, chop potatoes into bite-size pieces. Peel carrots and slice them into thin coins. Toss potatoes and carrots in a 9×13-inch baking pan with a generous pour of olive oil; sprinkle with oregano, cumin, paprika, and chili powder and toss to combine. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
While potatoes and carrots cook, trim and rinse the broccoli. Carefully remove fiddleheads from the water bowl and trim off the ends. Finely dice the white bulbs from the ramps, reserving the green leaves.
Add fiddleheads and broccoli to the roasted potatoes and carrots, and toss to combine. Scatter the diced ramp bulbs on top of the veggies and roast for a further 20 minutes. While the veggies continue to roast, roughly chop the ramp leaves. Set a saucepan of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Remove the veggies from the oven and allow to cool. While the veggies cool, poach the eggs for about three minutes each, and drain briefly on paper towels.
Divide generous servings of roasted veggies among four dinner plates; top with chopped bacon, poached eggs, and sprinkle with freshly grated pepper. Serve immediately.