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It was a question that jolted me back to my culinary past. Had I ever made shirred eggs? Yes, but back a decade or so ago. A colleague was talking about shirred eggs on her morning radio show when a caller had inquired about them. “Shirred eggs — heck, those are just baked eggs, jazzed up with a little cream and cheese,” she said. That afternoon, I made shirred eggs for lunch in my mother’s custard cups. They were that easy.
And I’m delighted to put shirred eggs back in my meal rotation.
Shirred eggs have a somewhat storied past. They originated in France, and the name refers to the flat-bottomed dish the eggs are baked in. They were all the rage during Victorian times. Julia Child revived interest during her famous cooking shows. “An egg is your best friend,” she said. No argument there!
The little dish or ramekin is called a cocotte. Several years ago, when we were in France, we enjoyed oeufs en cocotte: baked eggs with cream and cheese. What’s simpler than that?
For those of us blessed with fresh eggs every day, trying new egg dishes like shirred eggs is fun and makes for variety in meal planning.
Shirred eggs are easy enough to fix for a quick breakfast, fancy enough for casual entertaining, and filling enough for a hearty supper.
Here are some basic information and a master recipe you can take in any direction you like!
Butter, eggs, cream, cheese, and seasonings. (Vary these to suit yourself. See my substitutions in the master recipe.)
Greens, shredded potatoes, mushrooms, and shallots can be sautéed ahead of time then placed on the bottom of the baking dish before adding eggs.
You can sprinkle these on top right before serving:
Bake for one or many
That’s the beauty of shirred eggs. You can bake individual shirred eggs or eggs for a crowd. Count on two eggs, two tablespoons of cream, and one tablespoon or so of cheese per person.
Just about anything ovenproof (and sometimes broiler-proof) works.
Ramekins, gratin dishes, shallow casseroles, custard cups, and ovenproof mugs all work well. Adjust the number of eggs and the amount of cream and cheese to fit the baking dish.
Muffin tins are excellent for shirred eggs for a crowd. Line the tins with foil muffin liners for easy removal.
Now, are you ready to make shirred eggs? Let’s go!
MASTER RECIPE SHIRRED EGGS
Classic shirred eggs include cream and cheese. See my substitutes at the end of this recipe. This recipe serves 4.
8 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup finely shredded favorite cheese
4 ramekins or ovenproof custard cups
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush softened butter on the bottom and up the sides of the ramekins.
Break two eggs gently into each ramekin to keep the yolks from breaking. (If they do, though, no worries. The finished dish will still be yummy).
Gently pour two tablespoons of cream on top of the eggs.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake ¾ of the way in the oven 10-15 minutes or so, depending upon the size of ramekins and whether eggs and cream are cold or room temperature. Your goal is to have gently cooked whites and softly cooked yolks that are still a bit runny. If you like the yolks cooked more, bake a couple more minutes, but remember the eggs will continue to cook a bit after you take them out of the oven.
Sprinkle two tablespoons of cheese on top of eggs a minute or two before eggs are done. This is sufficient to melt the cheese enough.
Half and half, evaporated milk, or a dairy-free equivalent work well. A seasoned tomato sauce can be subbed in for the dairy, as well.
Try soy cheese in place of regular.
A shallow casserole makes an inviting shirred egg dish for two or four or more. You can put as many eggs in a single layer as the dish can hold. Then adjust the amount of cream, cheese, and add-ins.
SHIRRED EGGS WITH SOLDIERS
I love this description! Toast thick bread, spread with butter, cut off crusts, and cut into four rectangles. Serve alongside eggs.
SHIRRED EGGS WITH SPEED SCRATCH BREADSTICKS
“Speed scratch” is my term for using a store-bought ingredient to make something delish and, just as important, easy. These are firm enough to dip into the shirred eggs.
1 can refrigerated pizza dough
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Spray a cookie sheet.
Unroll dough and cut into 12-16 strips.
Twist each strip and pinch edges.
Brush with butter.
Bake until golden brown, 7-8 minutes or so.
Along with seasonal vegetables, many herbs have an affinity for shirred eggs.
I like to sprinkle finely minced herbs on the eggs after baking to keep their color.
Parsley, curly or Italian
Onion and garlic chives
Nasturtiums, both flowers and leaves
Lovage (a celery substitute)
Your favorite — be creative!
Originally published in the April/May 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.