So… it’s breakfast time, and for most people that means EGGS. Eggs are amazing, versatile little dudes packed with protein and all things that are good. Perhaps you are bored with the old fried egg in a pan breakfast? Perhaps scrambling them up just doesn’t have the same pizzazz that it used to? Well, my friends, have I got the eggy dish for you!
They are called shirred eggs. Pronounced sheer-ed, like sheering a sheepy friend of their wool. Shirred is just a fancy word for baked eggs. Though the technique I’m using here was taught to me partly by Chef Patricia Yeo, who learned this in her youth in London and taught it to me while I was working with her at Ginger Park in the South End, but also by Julia Child, who has a similar recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’m going to show you how to do it… but I must warn you. When you take your first bite of a shirred egg, there’s no going back. These are, simply put, the best eggs you will ever eat ever. Something about the broiling process (and the basting in cream and butter part, I’m sure) changes the consistency of the yolk and white into this rich, creamy texture that melts in your mouth. I know, right? Don’t worry, here’s how.
- a dash of olive oil
- 1 small shallot clove, chopped small
- 1/4 of a small zucchini, chopped into tiny triangles (you can use whatever vegetable you want here, such as broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, or even skip it all together if you just want plain eggs)
- a big dollop of butter (probably a tablespoon)
- 1/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice (cheddar, gruyere, swiss, doesn’t matter, but the sharp cheeses are the best. Also you don’t need the cheese, but it’s really good.)
- 2 large, farm fresh eggs (you can really do as many eggs as will fit on the surface of your pan, just double the other ingredients too)
Okay first things first. Preheat your broiler. Get it really hot. If you don’t have a broiler in your oven, just move the rack as close to the top heat source as you can. You’ll need an iron skillet, or any medium sized, oven safe frying pan. Throw just a dash of olive oil in that pan on low/medium heat on the stovetop and add the chopped shallots.
Once your vegetables have become ever so slightly tender (don’t over cook, we are still headed into the broiler) it’s time to make some space in the pan for the eggs. So scrape all the veggies and shallots to the outer edges of the pan so that they form a space big enough for two eggs. Then add your delicious butter:
Mmmm sizzling buttery goodness… Oh yes, cooking, right! Let that butter melt down into the space you’ve created and then immediately add your eggs. Let those whites spread out and collect the veggies. You want to cook them over that low/medium heat until the bottoms become white, but the top layer of whites are still clear, just for a minute or two, until they look like this:
Then you should turn the stovetop heat off. Here’s where we drizzle them with just a dash of cream. You just wanna pour a little tiny drizzle around the outer edges of the pan so that the ingredients keep from getting dried out under the broiler:
so… creamy… sooo smooth… where was I? Oh right, then you want to add the shredded cheese. Just sprinkle that around the edges too, especially if you like crispy edges. Avoid the yolks though, you want to keep those pristine:
All that goes right under your piping hot broiler. Now here’s where things get a little tricky. Your broiler is very hot, so this should take less than 5 minutes to cook. If you like a runny yolk, which I do, but don’t like runny whites (ewwww! who likes runny whites??) you’ll need to check them every 60 seconds. Since my broiler is on the underside of my oven, I usually just keep the door open and watch.
Don’t forget to wear an oven mit! The pan will be very hot. That cream and cheese will start to sizzle up right away. The best way to judge if the eggies are ready is to shake the pan gently and watch the yolks. The looser the yolk is, the less cooked it is. You want your whites to be totally white and the yolks to be just the way I like my men: firm around the edges but jiggly in the middle. Joking… maybe. Anyway here’s what they look like when they are done:
See those nice brown edges? See how the yolks are still round and glistening and have translucent tops but the edges are firm? That’s what you are striving for. You can always cook some more, but you can’t un-cook, so remember to keep checking them. Once they get to this point, remove them from the broiler, rest for just a moment in the pan to cool down, and serve with spices of your choice. I usually sprinkle them with salt, black pepper and a little herbs du provence. Dill is also very good on eggs. They are really good just as they are, or with a piece of toast to gather up the delicious creamy yolks. Enjoy!
Hot…. damn. Now I want breakfast all over again…