Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Italian Style Baked Eggs

The baked egg is a fairly underrated breakfast item. Really you could chop up any number of delicious leftovers or whatever you had in the fridge, place in a greased ramekin, top with a fresh egg and let bake while you have your shower or do your hair. Butter and cream are very common in French style baked eggs and tarragon is a natural accompaniment - but today I decided to go Italian and used olive oil in the ramekins and chopped fresh tomato for the treasure inside. I served the baked eggs with rustic Italian "soldiers", thin strips of toasted Italian peasant bread smeared with a clove of garlic and lightly drizzled with olive oil.
Buon appetito!

THE MINIMALIST; Tender Is the Yolk
By Mark Bittman
Published: December 29, 1999

BAKED eggs are not common these days, but they are both easy and underrated, especially as a morning-after indulgence. I first encountered them combined with slow-cooked onions, cheese and bread crumbs, a recipe taught me by a college friend whose family had been making them for years. The dish was originally called ''man-style eggs,'' presumably because of its heartiness. These days, the family calls them ''eggs, person-style,'' but I prefer the more generic name in the recipe below.

Eggs can be baked on a bed of almost anything -- cooked spinach and sliced tomatoes come to mind immediately -- but the trick in every case is to avoid overcooking. The consistency of baked eggs should be like that of fried eggs, with a barely cooked white and a soft, runny yolk. When you cut into the yolk, it spills out over bread crumbs, melted cheese and onions, moistening and enriching the lot. But if the dish is left just a minute too long in the oven, the yolk will become medium- or hard-cooked, and much of the pleasure will be lost.

The easiest way to master the timing is to underbake the eggs slightly and then to finish them under the broiler, keeping a careful eye on them all the while. Even then, overcooking is a danger, and it's better to remove the eggs prematurely and let the heat of the pan finish the cooking than to allow the yolk to harden.

I've played with this recipe over the years, but the most important changes I've made are in the bread crumbs and cheese. The former were originally packaged and the latter was originally just Cheddar from the supermarket. But now I make my own bread crumbs and use a combination of Gruyere, Cantal or good Cheddar with freshly grated Parmesan. The difference, not surprisingly, is significant.
Italian Style Baked Egg With Tomato
Adapted from Mark Bittman, New York Times
for I Heart Cooking Clubs June Potluck

Per ramekin:

Olive oil as needed

1/4 tomato, chopped

1 egg

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Panko breadcrumbs

Pecorino Romano, finely grated

Fresh tender thyme leaves

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Smear a bit of olive oil in ramekin; line with tomato, sprinkle with a little sea salt and black pepper. Break egg into ramekin, then put on a baking sheet. Top egg with a pinch of panko, and a little of the grated romano.

2. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until egg is set and white has solidified. Because the cup retains heat, egg will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, so it is best to undercook it slightly. Precise time, in a good oven on a middle rack, is 12 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and thyme leaves and serve.

Yield: 1 serving.