Shirred eggs make a fine dish at breakfast, brunch, or lunch, and can even be adapted elegantly for dinnertime. Typically baked and then served in a shallow, flat-bottomed dish, eggs are paired with butter to bake until the whites have barely set and the yolks are thickened.
To make the basic dish, you'll need 1½ t butter, 2 eggs, salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Preheat your oven to 400°.
Put the butter in a small gratin dish and place in oven until butter melts. Then swirl melted butter in dish to coat the bottom and sides. Crack the eggs and add them to the dish. Cover with aluminum foil to bake for 7 minutes. Uncover, season, and serve.
- Sprinkle 2T bread crumbs on the bottom of the buttered dish, add the eggs, and sprinkle with another 2T bread crumbs on top before baking. Or instead of bread crumbs on top, use 2T chopped cooked mushrooms.
- Add 3T cream to the bottom of the baking dish and another 3T cream over the eggs.
- For a more substantial dish, drain and place 4 small cooked sausages or a few T diced, cooked ham around the eggs in the baking dish.
- Add 2 or 3 chicken livers. To prepare chicken livers, sauté in 1T butter for 2 or 3 minutes, then add 1t sherry. Immediately scoop up livers, butter, and drippings from pan and place around the baked eggs in gratin dish.
- Shirred eggs florentine: Spread 2T chopped cooked spinach on the bottom of the baking dish. Put the eggs on top and sprinkle with 2T Parmesan cheese, freshly grated.
- Spread chopped liver pâté on bottom of buttered gratin dish. Sprinkle 1t each of finely chopped green olives and finely chopped chives. Break 2 eggs into the dish. Season with salt, pepper, and cook over low heat until eggs are set.
The French refer to shirred eggs as oeufs en cocotte (little egg casserole). They crack eggs without breaking yolks into a buttered ramekin The eggs bake in a water bath about ten minutes to let the egg white harden while the yolk remains somewhat runny. Nice additions to the finished dish include parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon.