Pretty. Easy. Poached Egg with Crunchy Quinoa and Balsamic-Brown Butter Asparagus

For the first Pretty.Easy. with eggs, we’re going poached. I know, you are thinking, “but that’s just not easy;” but, really, it can be. There are a few absolute keys to keep in mind (fabulously outlined by my friends at The Kitchn) and, once you have those down, you’re set.

A few weeks ago, I got to eat at my friend’s new restaurant, The Nomad, and had a beautiful meal by the uber-talented chef, Daniel Humm. Though everything truly was noteworthy, the poached egg stayed with me, because it was an effortless dish executed ever so elegantly. A perfectly poached egg arrived at our table surrounded by  tender asparagus, crunchy quinoa, and a savory brown butter zabaglione.

I don’t normally take a page directly from other chefs but felt an immediate need to recreate this poached egg — it felt like an doable yet impressive dish we should all have it in our wheel house. To make it pretty easy, I modified it by nixing the zabaglione and adding in some aged balsamic vinegar instead.

The result is a easy and pretty quick recipe that’s filling enough to be a light meal, yet noteworthy enough for a spring brunch (like, say, Mother’s Day) or a start to a blowout dinner party. And, as this dish is made up of multiple pieces, you can add or take away the quinoa, asparagus, or egg as you please. Just do me the favor and try it at least once as is so you can appreciate how simply beautiful this recipe is.

One last note: this recipe has a few more steps than previous Pretty. Easy. recipes but none of them are all that difficult. And, honestly, if you don’t poach the egg perfectly on the first try, well, it will still taste phenomenal.

Pretty Easy Poached Egg Quinoa Asparagus Recipe

Poached Eggs with Crispy Quinoa and Brown Butter- Balsamic Roasted Asparagus Recipe

If you only keep one thing in mind for a fabulously poached egg, have it be this: use the freshest eggs you can find. I use eggs bought at the farmer’s market or from our friend with backyard chickens because usually the ones from the store are just too old. Oh, and if you start poaching and the egg white and yolk separate in the water, you’re water is too cold so just turn up the heat! Finally, if you’re making everything at the same time, start by heating oven then poach the eggs and cook the quinoa while the oven warms up. 

  • Inspired by Chef Daniel Humm
  • Makes: 6 servings
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Hands-On Time: 20 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (optional)
  • 6 large very fresh eggs
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve


Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange rack in the upper third. (If making the quinoa and eggs ahead, don’t warm the oven until you want to make the asparagus.)

  • For the quinoa:

Bring 3 cups of water and a few pinches of salt to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until you can see the curlicue in each grain and it is tender to the bite, about 15 minutes. If the water is not entirely absorbed, drain any excess. (Can be made through this step up to 4 days in advance. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to use.)

If you want some extra crunch (which I highly recommend), go ahead and toast the quinoa. To do so, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add half of the quinoa and stir occasionally until about half of the quinoa is toasted and golden brown. Repeat with remaining quinoa.

  • For the egg:

Fill a large frying pan with 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. There should be a lot of small bubbles on the bottom of the pan and, if you want to be super precise, take the water temperature – it should be between 185 and 200°F. Break each egg into a separate small cup or ramkin. Fill a large bowl with warm water and set aside.

If using, add the vinegar to the water (it helps the egg set quickly). Working one at a time, gently slide three of the eggs into the simmering water. (If the top of the egg peeks out of the water, gently spoon some water over the top to help it cook evenly.) Cook until whites are just set, about 4 minutes. Lift eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl of warm water to keep warm. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Store refrigerated in cold water. To rewarm, dip in simmering water until warmed through, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.)

  • For the asparagus:

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard them. On a large baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the remaining oil and some salt and pepper. Spread the asparagus out on the baking sheet and roast until just tender when pierced with a knife, anywhere from 5 minutes for thin asparagus to 10 minutes for thick.

If desired, cut asparagus into 1-inch lengths. Just before serving, melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat; cook , stirring frequently, to prevent burning until it smells toasty and nutty and is a deep golden brown (around the same color as peanut butter) about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vinegar until well incorporated. Taste and add more vinegar, if desired. Add half of the balsamic-brown butter sauce to the asparagus, tossing well to coat.

  • To serve:

Divide quinoa among 6 plates, scatter asparagus among dishes. Scatter the asparagus among the dishes then top each plate with one poached egg. Drizzle remaining balsamic brown butter over the top, top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and, if desired, some freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

Glorified: Make this dish even closer to Chef Humm’s by whipping the brown butter (sans balsamic) into an unsweetened zabaglione.

Modified: Make this more of a meal and add blanched fava or spring peas as well as some pea shoots to the quinoa.

Simplified: Nix the brown butter and just toss the asparagus with balsamic vinegar. You could also eat the quinoa untoasted though that extra crunch the toasting provides makes the dish.

Pretty Easy is a monthly feature showcasing doable yet interesting recipes. Even those who fear cooking often find success with these recipes.

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