Not every special-occasion dish requires a trip to the gourmet-foods store. You really can make this at a moment’s notice with ingredients you probably have on hand right now, which is a high-low approach to food that I really enjoy. The first time I made this, I was just looking for a way to use up the cooked potato I had left over from making fried potato skins. I thought about the way the Italians toss a raw egg with hot pasta in truffle season and then shower the dish with shaved truffle for a super rich, elegant dish. When I added the fresh element of the herbs and greens, it all came together for a starter that looks and feels very restaurant-y. It takes a few steps, but none of them are difficult. If you have a fresh truffle, by all means shave a bit on this as well, but even without it this is a showstopper.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spread the potatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until you can easily pierce them with a knife, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool.
- While the potatoes are baking, cure the egg yolks. One at a time, separate the eggs, working over a small bowl to catch the whites and carefully slipping each yolk from its shell half into a second small bowl. (You may want to add a couple of extra yolks as insurance against breakage later.) When you separate the eggs, hold them close to the bowl. The greater the distance the egg yolk falls, the more likely it is that the yolk will break.
- Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the 2 tablespoons salt and simmer until the salt has dissolved. Pour the hot water into a deep heatproof bowl. Immediately slide the egg yolks into the salted water, holding the bowl as close to the surface of the salt bath as possible to minimize breakage. Let the yolks stand in the water while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl. Mash the potatoes very well with a potato masher or fork. Set a sieve over a mixing bowl. A few tablespoons at a time, use a rubber spatula to press the potatoes through the sieve, scraping the bottom of the sieve now and then. Sieving the potatoes gives them a very fine, silky texture. Don’t use a food processor, as the potatoes will become gummy, not light and fluffy.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Put the mashed potatoes in a second saucepan over low heat. A few tablespoonfuls at a time, whisk in the melted butter, followed by the milk. Season with salt. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature until ready to serve, up to 2 hours. The mash will be quite heavy and at times may look like it can’t absorb any more butter, but it can, so keep going until it tastes like the richest, nuttiest, silkiest mash you have ever had.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Discard any tough stems from the spinach. Wash it well. Spinach can be very sandy, so to get off any grit, swish it in a sinkful of water, then lift the leaves out into a colander to drain.
- Coarsely chop the spinach, parsley, and dill. Add to the boiling water and cook just until the spinach and herbs turn a darker shade of green, about 30 seconds. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold running water, then spread on a tea towel or paper towels to drain and cool.
- Reheat the potatoes in their pot over very low heat, whisking often to keep them from scorching. While they slowly heat, put the greens in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the bread crumbs and fry until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bread crumbs onto a paper towel–lined plate.
- Divide the dressed greens among 4 soup bowls. Top with equal amounts of the potato mash. Use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in each mound of mash. Cupping your fingers, carefully remove one yolk at a time from the salted water, letting the water drip through your fingers, and nestle the yolk in the mash. Sprinkle with the crushed potato chips and bread crumbs. Serve immediately.