Poached Eggs with Creole Sauce and Fried Eggplant

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Creole Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped OR 2/3 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 small bay leaf
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
cayenne pepper
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, fresh
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon thyme, dried, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon basil, dried, crumbled
salt and freshly ground pepper
flour, all-purpose
1 egg - beaten with 1/2 cup milk
Chive Hollandaise Sauce
1-1/2 stir unsalted butter - (3/4 cup)
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
8 eggs - or 4 if you're only serving one per
vegetable oil
fresh watercress sprigs

FOR CREOLE SAUCE: Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Mix in tomato, broth, tomato juice, thyme, paprika and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornstarch mixture and boil until slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Cover partially and simmer 10 minutes. Puree sauce in blender or processor. Return to saucepan. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)

FOR EGGPLANT: Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Cut eggplant into eight 2-1/2-inch rounds, using biscuit cutter. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, thyme, basil, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Dip eggplant rounds into flour; shake off excess. Dip into egg mixture, then breadcrumbs, coating thoroughly. Transfer to prepared sheet. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover.)

FOR HOLLANDAISE: Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and spoon white foam off surface. Pour clarified butter into cup, discarding milky residue. Combine 2 yolks, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar and water in top of double boiler. Whisk over barely simmering water until eggs thicken, double in volume and are pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in clarified butter. Add lemon, salt and pepper. Stir in chives. (Chive Hollandaise can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead. Keep sauce warm in vacuum bottle.)

EGGS: Add 2 inches salted water to large skillet. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and bring to simmer. One at a time, break eggs into cup and slide into water . Poach until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes. (I poach mine 3 minutes and they come out perfect; there's nothing worse than an overdone poached egg.) Transfer to bowl of cold water using slotted spoon. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead.)

Pour 1/2-inch oil into another heavy large skillet. Heat to 350F. Add eggplant rounds in batches (do not crowd) and cook until tender and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, reheat Creole sauce over medium heat. Coat heated plates with Creole sauce. Place 2 eggplant rounds in center of each plate. Add eggs to large skillet of simmering water and reheat, about 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and drain briefly. Place 2 eggs atop eggplant on each plate. Nap each egg with hollandaise and garnish with watercress. Serve, passing remaining hollandaise sauce separately.

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