The last time I shirred eggs — it's a funny old term for baking eggs in a ramekin, or more Frenchily, en cocotte — I was in a sixth-grade homemaking class. I don't think any of us 11-year-old girls appreciated the technique. I still prefer my eggs scrambled.
But there we were, learning the art of the fusty old shirred egg. I can't remember how they tasted, although they were probably bland; I think the only other ingredients we added were cream, salt and pepper. I definitely recall that they were cooked in those horrifically retro Pyrex custard cups.
In other words, the recipe didn't much stick in my brain. I never tried it again.
Until the other day. It was a perfect storm, if I may be allowed the painful cliché. I had some ingredients that irresistibly added up to fishing boat, George Clooney, rough ocean, bad movie... And, voilà: Oeufs a la Andrea Gail.
I mean, seriously, not a success. But I had no choice. I had to go down with the ship.
Too bad. Because look at this photo. It is beautiful!
Just so you know, then. I lined the buttered ramekin with a slice of lovely, smoky, moist ham. Topped that with cut-up spears of strapping spring asparagus, partially precooked in butter. Cracked a couple of super-fresh free-range eggs over it all. Salt, pepper. Oven.
Doesn't that sound perfect? (Psst: Cookiecrumb, check the weather report! Storm!)
I looked up shirred eggs in Joy of Cooking, and was warned that the eggs would retain heat, and therefore keep cooking, after they came out of the oven. No problem; do I look like a perfect idiot?
I kept checking the eggs, peering through the glass window of the oven door and recoiling at the sight of the translucent, slimy, squiggly egg whites. Those guys weren't done yet, no sir.
Minutes passed, probably more than the 10 or so that had been recommended.
Still, the whites looked gooey.
But finally, I had to get them out of there.
Oh, man, they looked good. Tumescent, vivid egg yolks. Slightly singed ham. Asparagus done just right. And those egg whites; they still had a gelatinous sheen, but it was time to eat.
Which was when the fork bounced off the yolks.
Well, not "bounced," exactly, but they were shirred, fer sher. Overcooked. En beaucoup cocotte. A little much-ish.
I think this recipe would have been improved by dousing the eggs in the ramekins with a little cream before they went into the oven, and surely by removing them before the credits rolled.