A household like ours with four females under one roof can tip the scales in the drama department. Never more so than in the before-school bustle when there are important details to fuss over, beyond lunchboxes and homework: whether certain shoes go with certain outfits, if ponytails are straight, if patterns clash, and now that we have a teenager amongst us, whether lip gloss is too shiny, or not shiny enough.
Lucky for my husband, the lone male in the house, he is usually off to work long before we’re up, leaving me in charge of wrangling the chaos. Mornings can get a little, well, hairy (and I’m not referring to the aforementioned ponytails), such as last Thursday when by the time they were out the door I felt I’d already worked a full day, and wondered if it was cocktail hour yet. But it was only eight, so I turned my attention to breakfast instead.
I pulled out the lone pair of eggs remaining in the fridge, along with butter, crusty bread, and the half grapefruit left untouched by the girls, and set to work on making myself a proper breakfast. This was a first for me on a school day morning.
I buttered a couple of ramekins, cracked in the eggs and baked them in the oven until the whites were set and yolks still runny. It’s a simple, elegant egg dish which the French call oeufs en cocotte and the English refer to as shirred eggs. I call them baked eggs since the other two names make them sound more complicated than they really are.
Baking is a genius technique for eggs because you can see what’s happening, as opposed to soft boiled where I’m always wondering what’s going on inside that shell, or poached, which often seem to unfurl on me in the simmering water. Although baked eggs require the forethought to preheat an oven, they are just as easy as scrambled or fried because once baking, your work is done.
What you’ll notice here is that a little butter goes a long way. Each ramekin gets about 1/3 of a teaspoon, giving it plenty of the buttery flavor that goes so happily with eggs. If you want to get fancy, say for a weekend brunch, scatter chopped basil, thyme or chives in the bottom of the ramekins before you crack in the eggs. Once cooked, garnish the top with a touch more herbs.
Before you go making these for your kids, or your husband, or your friends, make them just for yourself. Sitting down to buttery baked eggs and a cup of tea in a supremely quiet house felt indulgent and restorative in the way of a hot bath or foot massage. By the time I’d sopped up the last of the yolks with the crust of my bread, I had recovered from the drama of the morning and was ready to face the day.
BARELY BUTTERY BAKED EGGS
- 1 tablespoon butter, divided
- 8 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the butter into 16 tiny cubes. Use your fingers to smear 1 cube of butter on the inside of each of 8 ramekins. Set aside the remaining butter.
Put the ramekins in a baking pan and fill the pan with enough water to reach halfway up the sides. Crack an egg into each ramekin and season with a sprinkle of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder.
Put the eggs into the center of the oven and bake until the whites are just set and the yolks still soft, about 16 minutes (give or take a minute). Be aware that the eggs will continue to cook a bit even after they’re out of the oven.
Very carefully remove the baking pan and lift out the ramekins using a pair of tongs or dish towel.
Top each egg with one of the remaining 8 little cubes of butter. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings