Spinach, mushrooms, and meat flavor this San Francisco classic
This dish, beloved on the US west coast, was created at Original Joe’s Restaurant in San Francisco.
It looks like breakfast fare. But the dish is so hearty and filling that it may work better for lunch or dinner.
It certainly does for us, because we’re just not that hungry first thing in the morning. Plus, if you serve it for dinner, you can pair it with an alcoholic accompaniment. Win win.
Recipe: Joe’s Special Scrambled Eggs
This dish has become so popular that you can now sample it at numerous San Francisco restaurants, as well as other restaurants along the west coast. And nowadays, in environs beyond.
Joe’s Special contains eggs, of course. And spinach. Usually mushrooms. Often onions or garlic. And always meat. The traditional recipe contains ground beef. Popular meat variations include Italian sausage or Mexican chorizo. And our favorite, bacon.
We use bacon in our recipe because we think the flavor works better than ground beef (but in the Notes we provide instructions for the beef version if you want to try it). Bacon also provides a better balance of ingredients (in the original, ground beef dominates the dish).
This recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare and serves 2 or 3. We like to serve this with toast or garlic toast, preferably made from sourdough bread.
- 3 to 4 slices of bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 shallot, minced (1 to 2 tablespoons)
- ~½ cup sliced mushrooms (or more to taste)
- salt to taste (maybe ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 to 2 handfuls of fresh spinach (about a cup, packed)
- 4 eggs
- ~2 tablespoons milk (optional)
- additional salt for flavoring the eggs (a few pinches)
- freshly ground black pepper (a few grinds)
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for garnish
- sourdough toast or garlic toast for garnish (optional, but traditional)
- Add the bacon pieces to a large frying pan placed over medium stovetop heat, then brown the bacon. When the bacon is browned (5 to 8 minutes), remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Eyeball the amount of rendered bacon fat. If it’s more than 2 tablespoons, you may wish to remove a bit. Add the chopped shallot and mushrooms to the hot bacon fat. Season to taste with salt and thyme. Sauté until the mushrooms are barely browned (about 3 minutes).
- Add the spinach, then stir to combine. Sauté until the spinach is wilted (a minute or two).
- While the spinach is cooking, crack the eggs and add them to a bowl. Add milk, if using, and season with salt and black pepper. Whisk briefly (about 30 seconds), just enough to combine the eggs.
- When the spinach is cooked, add the bacon back to the pan. Let it warm briefly, then pour in the beaten eggs. Using a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the eggs are scrambled (see Notes). The texture of the dish will be somewhat loose and crumbly.
- Plate the dish, then garnish each serving with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. If you like, you can add a slice of sourdough or garlic bread to each plate (we prefer it toasted).
- Instead of shallot, you could substitute diced onion and/or garlic.
- Ingredient quantities are very casual in this dish – in particular, feel free to adjust the quantities of mushrooms and spinach to taste.
- Instead of fresh spinach, you could substitute frozen.
- We like dried thyme in this dish. Dried oregano is also nice. Or fresh tarragon.
- This dish typically is served with the eggs scrambled until they are fairly dry. But if you prefer scrambled eggs to be soft and creamy, go for it.
- We often add milk when we scramble eggs (a tablespoon or 2 is enough). But that’s optional.
- If you prefer to use ground beef in this dish: Use 6 to 8 ounces and eliminate the bacon. We season the ground beef with salt, then brown it (this takes maybe 8 minutes). Then we remove most of the rendered fat with a spoon, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the frying pan. We push the browned beef to the sides of the pan, then add the shallot and mushrooms (Step 2) and proceed with the recipe.
- BTW, a single restaurant serving of this dish often uses the full 6 to 8 ounces of ground beef. That’s way too much for us, so we divide the dish into 2 servings. Or even 3.
- That’s another reason we prefer bacon to beef in this dish: A little goes a long way. The bacon version is lighter, plus we get more spinach and mushroom flavor.
- As noted above, Italian sausage and Mexican chorizo are also good alternatives in this dish.
- Or you could substitute chopped smoked salmon (it’s wonderful with spinach). No need to cook it – just start the recipe with Step 2 (use about 2 tablespoons of butter since you won’t have bacon fat), then add the smoked salmon with the spinach in Step 3.
- If you use smoked salmon, crumbled feta cheese makes a better garnish than Parmigiano Reggiano.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- We like to place hot sauce (such as Tabasco) on the table for those who prefer to spice up their eggs. Plus salt and pepper, of course. And maybe extra grated cheese.
- This dish was created at a San Francisco restaurant called Original Joe’s. The restaurant, in the grungy Tenderloin district, was started in 1937 by Ante “Tony” Rodin, a Croatian immigrant. The location was destroyed by fire in 2007, but in 2012 the restaurant was reopened in the North Beach area. There are other restaurants in San Francisco with “Joe’s” in their name, but Original Joe’s is, well, the original when it comes to this dish.
- In 2012, the mayor of San Francisco designated January 26 as “Original Joe’s Day.”
“So Original Joe’s opened in 1937, the same year as the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “But Joe’s tasted better.”
“You’re eggs-actly right about that,” I said. “This dish is eggs-cellent stuff.”
“A comedi-hen you’re not,” said Mrs K R. “Your jokes are bacon my heart.”
Guess un oeuf is un oeuf. Better quit before Mrs K R starts using fowl language.
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