Monday, September 28, 2015

Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs

"Everyone runs around trying to find a place where they still serve breakfast, because eating breakfast, even if it's 5 o'clock in the afternoon is a sign that the day has just begun and good things can still happen. Having lunch is like throwing in the towel." (Lenny Bruce is Dead, Jonathan Goldstein At some point in my life I went from skipping breakfast to wanting to 'breakfast' foods at any or all of the meals of the day. While I have scaled back significantly going to fast food restaurants, learning that McDonald's would be serving some of their breakfast foods 24 hours a day felt like a long awaited wish had finally been granted by the fast food fairy godmother. Could this mean the recently reported egg shortage news causing so many of us to go into a state of panic is coming to a sooner than later predicted end? I certainly hope so. Because I already envision myself making regular trips to the drive-through ordering my not-so-guilty pleasure Egg McMuffin to satisfy 'my too frequent to admit to' after 10:30 in the morning craving for it.

If there is one thing you can always find in my refrigerator, besides butter, it would be eggs. The large, brown, organic ones. Every time I watch one of Martha Stewart's baking shows, I enviously drool over the large bowl of fresh eggs sitting on her counter. If it were feasible to raise chickens where I now live and I wasn't such a 'picking up chickens wimptress', there would always be a large antique yellow ware bowl filled with fresh eggs gracing the counter of my kitchen. Not that anyone on the planet could compete with Martha Stewart, but this bowl of eggs would come as close to rivaling hers as possible. Maybe in my next life I will live in a chicken raising friendly place and have someone to pick up the chickens for me.  My dreams of having readily accessible fresh eggs don't include conquering my trepidation over handing either chickens, let alone a rooster. 

As much as I like eggs poached, fried sunny-side up, soft hardboiled, and soft scrambled, I also like their custard-like quality when mixed with cream and cheese. These Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs are kind of like a crustless quiche. They deliver all of the flavor of a quiche, without the work of having to make a crust. Served in individual ramekins makes them feel like you are receiving a personally made gift.

As with most quiche recipes there are no hard and fast rules in the making of these Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs. But unlike most quiche recipes it does not follow the 2 to 1 cream to egg ratio. Instead of a 1 1/2 cup of cream to 3 egg mixture, this one has a 1 1/2 cup of cream to 4 egg mixture. The fresh basil works as a great compliment to the three cheeses, sun dried tomatoes, dijon mustard, and bacon, however, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, or a mixture of any or all of these herbs would equally be delicious. 

There are three freshly grated cheeses in these baked eggs: Sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For each half cup of cheese, the general rule of thumb is that you will need a 2 ounce block. These Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs contain a total of 6 ounces of cheese or 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese. If you don't have all three of these cheeses, choose a combination of two of them and increase the weight of the cheese blocks accordingly to ensure you have a total of 6 ounces of cheese before grating.

Whether you call them scallions or green onions, you are still talking about the same onion-y, mild in bite vegetable. Thinly sliced they add the right amount of onion mellowness to the baked eggs.

After mixing the eggs and light cream (half and half) until combined, all of the other ingredients, except the crispy, cooked bacon are blended together.

There are many reasons why we are all so obsessed with bacon. Sometimes referred to as the candy meat, bacon is rich, indulgent, and slightly decadent. From its' aroma to it's taste, bacon broke out of its' 'for breakfast only' niche awhile back now. However, any morning that begins with bacon is a great morning. You can make these Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs with Canadian Bacon, but I would encourage you to first make them with some crispy, fried applewood smoked bacon. If you have a craving for Canadian Bacon, go out and get an Egg McMuffin.

In lightly greased or sprayed ramekins, the egg-cheese mixture is equally divided. To ensure each ramekin has the same amount of bacon (God forbid one should get a bacon shorted ramekin), the bacon is added after the ramekins are filled the egg-cheese mixture. Pressing the bacon down slightly into the mixture, they are baked in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 30-35 minutes.

The Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs become golden, slightly firm and puffed when done. During the cooling process they will lose some of their height, but none of their flavor.

You can serve the Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs hot, warm, or even at room temperature. The ramekin filled Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs are the perfect portion for breakfast, lunch or even dinner (depending on your appetite at that time of the day). 

There are an almost infinite number of reasons why eggs should be one of those foods we always have in our refrigerator or on our counters, that is, if we are fortunate enough to have access to freshly gathered eggs. These Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs were just added to that list.

Herb and Cheese Baked Eggs

4 slices (5 ounces) of thick cut applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp and cut into pieces or 3 ounces of Canadian bacon cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half (light cream)
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard (recommend Maille)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 ounces of sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (1/2 cup measured)
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1/2 cup measured)
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1/2 cup measured)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
2 green onions, sliced thinly (both green and white parts)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, julienned 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or spray six 4.5 ounce ramekins. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and light cream until blended.
3. Add green onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mustard, cheeses, salt, pepper, baking powder, and basil. Mix until blended.
4. Spoon or pour mixture into prepared ramekins. 
5. Divide the chopped bacon (or Canadian bacon) evenly amongst the ramekins. Lightly press the bacon into the egg-cheese-herb mixture.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden or set.
7. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Just a few of the animals residing on a family farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

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