Herb Baked Eggs

Herb Baked Eggs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Baked Eggs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Bring the Magic Home”

The Set-up: Ina remembers her trips to Paris and makes a dinner inspired by the city.

The Menu: Endive, Pear and Roquefort Salad, Profiteroles, Herb Baked Eggs

0:29 – We begin with a trip to Le Grand Epicerie in Paris – one of Ina’s favorite specialty food shops. It reminds me a bit of Eataly, open space, lots of variety.

1:11 – Back in Ina’s kitchen where she’s preparing to make Profiteroles. First step: pâte à choux.

2:24 – This dough is already scaring me - cooking the dough, then adding cold eggs to a hot mixture without tempering first? Somehow it turned out fine, but now a pastry bag is required to pipe the profiteroles.

3:33 – Ina tries to reassure me that if you make a piping mistake you can just scrape the dough back into the pastry bag. Why does that one piece of equipment make me want to abandon all hope?

3:50 – Pro Tip #1: dip your finger in water and press down the little tips so they don’t over cook.

4:45 – Back to Paris where Ina is visiting her favorite flower shop for arranging ideas. Idea #1: pick a color and gather a few flowers that are all in that shade, for example pale pink peonies, roses, and sweetpeas.

5:14 – Idea #2: Pick one flower, say hydrangeas, and make a massive arrangement. Idea #3: Combine one flower with an herb.

6:03 – Ina has decided to practice Idea #1 with a few different orange flowers and confesses that like many of us, finding the right size vase is the hardest part.

10:26 – We take a trip to a fromagerie in Paris for a little cheese tasting. Ina recommends choosing three very different cheeses and selects a soft goat cheese, harder cow’s milk cheese, and her favorite Roquefort, which is made from sheep’s milk.

11:38 – Back in the U.S. Ina is making her favorite salad with Endive, Pear and Roquefort including a dressing with champagne vinaigrette.

13:17 – Flashback to a dinner with Jeffrey at Café de Flore for a simple, but elegant supper of champagne and omelets with ham and cheese.

14:44 – As they eat their dinner Ina begins to scheme a similar recipe to make at home. I can totally relate, eating in restaurants these days is a combination of research and a search for inspiration…

19:29 – The recipe that emerged from their omelet experience is Herb Baked Eggs, which sounds amazing.

20:42 – So far everything that’s going into these eggs is perfect – butter, cream, garlic, parmesan, herbs. Mmmmm.

21:13 – The trick to this recipe seems to be pre-cooking the cream and butter a little bit in the gratin dishes so that the eggs begin cooking as soon as they hit the pan.

22:26 – Back to the Endive, Pear and Roquefort Salad and it’s time to assemble the plates, which basically entails strewing the leaves with crumbled blue cheese, slices of pear, and toasted walnuts.

23:30 – The finishing touch on the Profiteroles is a chocolate sauce enhanced with coffee and honey. Jeffrey is a lucky guy.

27:15 – Dinner is served on the back porch as dusk begins to settle, the birds chirp, the crickets sing. Trust me when I tell you it’s incredibly idyllic.

28:34 – Time to assemble dessert. Each profiterole gets a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce from the most charming little earthenware pitcher.

29:50 – A final toast: “to Paris!”

Final Thoughts:
Ina and I are on the same page – there’s so much inspiration to be found traveling!

When I discovered baked eggs it was a revelation. I can’t wait to try Ina’s version.

I really need to address this fear of the pastry bag. Maybe not with profiteroles though…

Herb Baked Eggs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Baked Eggs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’m obsessed these days with softly cooked eggs and I thought Ina’s Parisian Herb Baked Eggs would be the perfect way to start a moody, grumpy Bastille Day.

Prep: This dish comes together so quickly that you really will want to have both the herb/parmesan mixture, toast, and eggs ready to go before the gratin dish even hits the oven. Trying to do much more than press the lever on the toaster while the eggs are cooking will pretty much guarantee missing the magic moment of done, but not too doneness.

Dish Selection: I know an artist should never blame his brushes, but honestly sometimes the key to cooking lies in the equipment. In this case a wide, shallow baking dish is a big element. The eggs need even contact with the heat to allow the whites to set first while leaving the yolks still soft. When the eggs don’t have room to spread out it’s nearly impossible to achieve that balance. If you don’t have individual gratin dishes and don’t want to buy some then I’d recommend using the largest, shallowest ramekin you have or reduce the eggs by one so that they’re not overly crowded.

Timing: These eggs are a simple dish, but don’t be fooled they require careful watching. If you want a truly soft yolk, I’d recommend starting with 5 minutes (assuming you’re using a shallow dish) in the oven, since the eggs will continue to cook after they’re removed from the oven.

Herb Baked Eggs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Baked Eggs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Indubitably, this is small kitchen friendly. I needed shallow gratin dishes (one for each person), small coffee cups (one for each dish), a baking sheet, measuring spoons, chef’s knife, microplane grater, and small cutting board.

The Verdict:
Trust Ina to bring back a dish so deceptively simple and elegant. I loved making Herb Baked Eggs for breakfast because it had all the trappings of a fancy breakfast, but required very few fine motor skills – essential when I’m cooking pre-coffee. The herbs, garlic, and parmesan add just the right amount of seasoning even with out salt & pepper, but a little sprinkle of both wouldn’t be over the top. This would be the perfect dish to make when you have a crowd for breakfast – the same effect as a lovely poached or fried egg, but much simpler and it feels special too.

Herb Baked Eggs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Baked Eggs | Image: Laura Messersmith