Monday, April 28, 2008

Shirr? Sure.

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.


cook eat FRET said...

and now you know...

and i did the very same thing...

kudzu said...

Ahhh. Perfect shot, yet not perfectly acceptable cooking: now you know the secret to studio food photography! I once received a half-baked chicken covered in peanut sauce from the LOOK studio and I scraped off the sticky surface, finished it in my oven and we had it for dinner. Good thing we weren't poisoned (fortunately our apt. was only minutes away by subway)! Motto: what you see is not necessarily what you want to get.

Zoomie said...

And maybe a little grating of nutmeg? It has the bones of a great dish!

tammy said...

You win some, you lose some. I hate when I make something awesome but then the pictures suck, because then nobody believes you.

peter said...

I was just thinking the same thing; we had unicorn steaks with magic rainbow sauce tonight but the camera broke.

Dagny said...

Are you sure that you don't have a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" desk calendar that my aunt gave me for Christmas? Because one of the pages last week was about baked eggs...

El said...

Tumescent eggs? Can I tell you how much you (har) crack me up?

Baked eggs (doesn't that sound so...boring) are the best, and the easiest, way to deal with company out here in Eggville. Lovely post!

ilex said...

Ooh, "tumescent". I really wanna wedge that one into a sentence today. Wonder how many times that word has appeared in blogs... I'm guessing not so much.

I really love your blog. Just found it the other day. Very snappy writing.

cookiecrumb said...

ceF: You too? Will we ever learn??

Kudzu: I thought all food studio photography involved copious lashings of Kitchen Bouquet, for that turgid, brown look.
I can't believe you ate the chicken!

Zoomie: Ooh. Sounds like we're getting somewhere. I may just keep trying.

Tammy: Really good food always photoes crappy; it's the law.

Peter: Aquamarine supper! But like Tammy said, you're a liar.

Dagny: No kidding! What a coincidence. :D

El: Aw, thanks, you. I got a lot of dirty words; did you catch the "turgid" in my reply to Kudzu?
Onward and eggward.

Ilex: (Your name is Holly?) Honey, you'd probably find those erectile words on some *other* blogs... But over here in food land we keep it clean.
Thanks for the kind words, none of them dirty. ;)

kudzu said...

Cookie--Yes, we ate that chicken. We were young, hungry, and poor! As for food photography: ah, the stories I could tell.

Sam said...

I concur with the cream-in suggestion. And may I be so bold as to add the words 'bain marie' into the suggestion box?

namastenancy said...

Tumescent? It's egg porn! I've never had any success with shirred eggs either and never saw the point of them. Give me fried, scrambled, over easy - fast and full of flavor. Don't get between me and my cholesterol count.

Stacie said...

yummy... george clooney... the eggs, call me a wus but I can't do the runny eggs, so those would have been perfect for me. runny eggs taste like earth... only good with egg sauce (as we call hollandaise in our house, bennies are eggs w egg sauce)...

Heather said...

I have that problem whenever I try to bake eggs. But I eat 'em up anyway. Those yolks are so vivid and gorgeous. Springtime eggs are the best.

Anna Haight said...

Yes, my egg muffins turned out similarly!

Rev. Biggles said...

I love that fork. Tell me about your fork.


cookiecrumb said...

Sam: I used a bain marie. No, honest, I did!! Just left the eggs in the oven too long... because they LOOKED undercooked.

NamasteNancy: Eggs. So simple, so good.

Stacie: The eggs would have been just right for you; soft but not crumbly.
Egg sauce!! Ha ha ha.

Heather: I was seriously out of practice. But I really do think I'll try again. You encourage me.

Anna: Whoops, bouncy egg muffins. I wondered about those.

Biggles: Ah, yes, the fork. Let me tell you about the fork.
I can't tell you a thing about the fork. The handle is that Mother-of-Toilet-Seat material; beautiful. I think I picked it up in a junk store.
What a sad story.

Michelle said...

This happened to me the first time I tried something like this too! And I'm so damn stubborn I haven't tried it since. Doesn't seem like anyone else has any suggestions either so I think I'll just keep my eggs scrambled or cooked in a pan! I'm there with you, sister. God, I wish we had asparagus too. Not even the grocery stores have it here (so far anyway). Pooey.

Sam said...

I do believe you. But I just don't understand how anyone could use a bain marie and fail to mention it. I mean, it sounds so sophisticated and pretty and dare I say it... impressive!

cookiecrumb said...

Michelle: I hear you on the asparagus season, but now that you're in Hawaii, you have such exciting new produce to sample! Seaweeds! Taro! Uh... (running out of ideas, so I hope you'll fill us in).

Sam: Har! My thoughts exactly. Why didn't I mention the bain marie; it sounds so impressive? Well, probably because I use one whenever it seems appropriate. Still, my oversight in reporting.