It's prime time for the versatile egg

  • Article by: PATRICIA LOPEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2012 - 11:10 AM

Whether it's spring brunch or Easter breakfast, the egg suits the season far beyond scrambled and poached.

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Shirred eggs are simple, but look very elegant.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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It started when my 14-year-old daughter, bored because I was working from home on a Saturday (again), decided to flip through some cookbooks for late breakfast ideas.

"Mom, what are shirred eggs?"

I paused. It was a recipe I'd looked at before, buried deep in Marion Cunningham's tiny gem, "The Breakfast Book." Shirred Lemon Eggs sounded delightful and a little quirky: eggs, a bit of heavy cream, grated Gouda cheese and lemon zest.

Eggs, Cunningham assured readers, "have a special affinity for lemon." Hmm. Maybe, but in a breakfast dish?

By some cosmic coincidence I had all the ingredients on hand, and the recipe required no open flame (thus, no supervision from me). I told her to go for it.

She set about happily pulling out blue ramekins, grating a little cheese and zest into the bottom and carefully cracking an egg in each. We quickly discovered it was best to make a little nest of grated cheese, zest and cream so the yolks would be properly centered. She poured a little cream over the eggs (not even the recommended full tablespoon) and finished them off with sea salt, cracked pepper and a sprinkle of dried herbs. Off they went into a 400-degree oven.

I finally decided to join in and suggested we make some sourdough toast and pan-fry a couple of slices of bacon.

At the recommended 12 minutes, we peered in at the eggs. Very jiggly yolks surrounded by still translucent whites. At 15 minutes, they looked decidedly more appetizing.

Within a half-hour of the time she found the recipe, we each sat down to a ramekin full of decadence. Soft, slightly runny yolks, fragrant with fines herbes, mixing with creamy whites and the slight, nutty tang of Gouda. Mopped up with the sourdough toast, accompanied by fresh blackberries, we felt we had dined well without even changing out of pajamas. My daughter beamed at the idea something we would gladly have paid for in a restaurant.

"Mom, it's sooo good," Amanda said. She had made a second egg for herself, but the richness of the first turned out to be enough.

Since then, I've made them with lime zest (when we ran out of lemons), with diced ham, with buttermilk instead of cream -- all good, ridiculously easy and devoured by my family.

We'll continue to make eggs different ways: scrambled, hard-cooked, in omelets.

But if I only had one egg left in all the world, I'd shirr it.

Patricia Lopez is the political editor at the Star Tribune.

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    Use a slow cooker for the Easter ham; it's tasty, and frees the oven up for other brunchlike duties.

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