Brunch for a large bunch: Shirred eggs

Preparing brunch for a large group can be daunting at times.  However, I’ve found that shirred eggs are an excellent brunch dish because they’re easy to prepare.  Plus, with the host of ingredients available to put inside, the dish is extremely versatile.

The French have a similar preparation called “en cocotte,” in which eggs are placed in a small dish and baked inside a water bath.  Although shirred eggs also are baked in small dishes called ramekins, most recipes call for them to be baked directly in the oven, not inside a water bath.  I take it a step further by baking them in a muffin pan, which allows me to have 12 eggs done and ready to serve at once.

You can vary the doneness of the eggs by adjusting the baking time.  Begin checking them after 10 minutes for soft-set eggs with runny yolks. Thick-sliced sourdough toast makes a perfect accompaniment, along with seasonal fresh fruit.

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1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 12-muffin pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray

2. Add milk to just cover the bottom of each cup

(A little side note on the reason why we add milk –  the oldest known reference to shirred eggs was published in the late 19th century defined “shirr” as “to poach eggs in cream instead of water.”

3. Crack one egg into each cup

4. Top with grated Parmesan cheese

5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper

6. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes

7. Use a knife to score around the edges of the egg. Remove each egg carefully with a spoon and serve on a platter with your favorite garnish

Optional:  After step 2, you can add pre-cooked ingredients to customize the recipe, such as crumbled bacon, chopped ham, sausage, sauteed mushrooms, onions, asparagus, peppers, and raw spinach leaves.

Consider how quickly you can prepare shirred eggs and just how much easier it has become to feed a large group.   In fact, encourage your guests to join in to customize their own shirred eggs. Who wouldn’t want a little help in the kitchen?

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