Shirred eggs, or oeufs en cocotte as they are known in France, accompanied by toast soldiers (thinly-sliced sections of toast) are one of the most glamorous, velvety breakfast dishes around. Once you go shirred, you'll never fry an egg again! Why make such a bold claim? Read on to find out.
"Shirred" eggs are essentially baked eggs with the addition of cream, fresh herbs, and a little cheese. There are endless variations on additional ingredients, and you can modify the recipe with what you have on hand or prefer. The dish is simple to make, but will absolutely wow you with flavor, elegance and texture.
The preparation requires a little forethought, and slightly more effort (although hardly!) than turning on the flame for a fried egg. However, the resulting dish is the grand dame of savory breakfasts. Actually, this perfect meal of a simple egg and toast is great any time of day. Dressed up with a salad, a couple of shirred eggs per person makes a rustic, pretty lunch or dinner.
Leave it to the British to deem thinly-sliced pieces of toast as "soldiers." It's such a jolly term for a jolly way to eat toast, perfect for dunking into the egg's gooey yolk. I recommend serving soldiers with shirred eggs, as they make lovely vehicles for mopping up the creamy eggs as well as making sure you've gotten every last bit of the food baked onto your ramekin! Small changes to things I eat regularly keep my palate and my appetite alive and excited.
Shirred Eggs with Soldiers
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
2 teaspoons minced shallot
a few sprigs of thyme
2 pieces of toast, cut into thin slices
Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two 4-inch ramekins (you can use a smaller size, or tea cups work as well; you may have to adjust your cooking time for desired setting of the eggs).
Crack each egg into a ramekin, and pour 1 tablespoon of cream onto each egg. Sprinkle the cheese, shallots and a few thyme leaves onto each egg.
Bake for 7 to 10 minutes (7 for a very runny yolk, 10 for a firmer yolk), until the egg is 'set' to your preference. Serve immediately with toast soldiers. Eggs will continue to set up as you eat, so get them to the table as soon as possible.
• I've read many recipes that call for baking the ramekins in a water bath, after testing with and without, I found no difference, so have eliminated this step from my recipe.
• You can make shirred eggs on a larger scale, as Faith did a few years ago, with many eggs in a big casserole dish, cooking times may need a little adjustment, but this is a nice idea for a weekend brunch.
• Additional ingredient ideas: caramelized onions, chopped olives, sauteed mushrooms, snippets of chives or green onions, bell pepper slivers, diced tomatoes, and goat cheese are all great in eggs cocotte.
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