What's Cooking: Results are egg-xactly what I had in mind

September 15, 2009 

Whatever your culinary passion, I guarantee there's a blog about it.

Fruitcake? Yes.

Coffee? Very popular.

Critiques of burrito joints nationwide? Yes.

Really. Someone has dedicated his spare time to this.

I recently came across a blog dedicated to Ina Garten, the Food Network goddess, aka the Barefoot Contessa. It's written by several foodies who call themselves the Barefoot Bloggers.

With a self-professed love for all things Ina, these bloggers pledge to make an Ina recipe every other week, then post a paragraph or two about what they think of it.

Sound familiar?

They've tested all kinds of dishes, like arugula pizza and a chocolate birthday cake that looks to die for. One of the first recipes they tried is Ina's herb-baked eggs.

This recipe is famous, at least among foodies. About a dozen people have suggested it to me over the years. I've always wanted to try it but never had a suitable occasion. It's not exactly something you serve at a Girl Scout meeting or a 7-year-old's birthday party.

So, I picked it for this week's recipe. Shopping was easy, except I forgot the eggs and cream, which is pretty much what the dish is made of. My husband had to run back to the store.

The good thing about this and most Ina recipes is that everything is available at any grocery store. There's no driving across town for specialty items.

The herbs — I used thyme, rosemary and basil — came from my garden. The gratin dishes were my husband's before we got married. (Why would a single guy have gratin dishes?)

Preparation was a breeze, but I was a little worried about the final product. I kept opening the oven and poking the eggs with a knife, trying to see if the whites were cooked, if the yokes were runny, and vice versa.

Finally, it was time to dig in. I was surprised — in a good way. The whites of the eggs were barely firm, and the yolks were quite runny. Just the way I like them.

The cream added a silky texture. And the crunch of the cheesy-herb topping? Perfection.

I loved the dish.

Some testers had a problem with the way their eggs cooked. Runny whites and burnt topping were common.

The only thing I can think of is that eggs are intensely personal — everyone likes their eggs cooked to a slightly different doneness. If well-cooked eggs are your thing, you could always bake the dish after broiling as directed.

Also, differences among broilers could account for the overly toasty topping.

But mine worked out fine. I'm so happy about the way it turned out, I might just create an egg blog ... or an herb blog ... or a crunchy-Parmesan topping blog.

To check out the Barefoot Bloggers, visit barefootbloggers.wordpress.com.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at kmccray@modbee.com or 578-2358.

What The Testers Had To Say

This is a nice way to do eggs. The herbs add a lot of flavor. I used large muffin tins and dropped one egg in each. I probably should have adjusted the cooking time, given this change, but was very pleased with the presentation of the eggs — perfect cylinders topped with herbs and crispy cheese. My husband, the bigger egg fan, was even more delighted.

— Ann Griffith, Modesto

•  •  •

The recipe sounds delicious, but it is half-baked, as were my eggs when I followed its directions. I actually baked the eggs for about 11 minutes before the egg white solidified. By that time the topping was well-charred, ruining the fresh-herbs-and-Parmesan flavor. I wish the recipe had told me what to expect, what the dish should look like, and how I should serve it. I'll try these toppings on my poached eggs next Sunday. I know they will be delicious.

— Ralph Moore, Modesto

•  •  •

This is one of my favorite ways to have eggs. The herbs and cheese blend so well together. I've made this for a nice lunch with a piece of crusty bread, and it always is a hit.

— Debbie Kennedy, Modesto

•  •  •

The three of us thought the flavor of these eggs was fantastic. Very scrumptious and quite gourmet. I doubted that they would finish cooking enough out of the oven, so I left them in a tad too long and, well, they were quite well done but still tasted great ... and that's no yolk! (My husband made me say that.)

— Karin Reenstierna, Modesto

•  •  •

It seems every time I test the simplest of recipes, I gain new and inspiring insights into cooking. In this case, it was the wonder of fresh herbs. Having recently taken a class in growing and cooking with herbs, this recipe came at an opportune time. The fresh and delicate flavor of the herbs matched with the soothing creaminess of the eggs was delicious. I am so used to cooking with big, bold flavors; this was a nice departure. I liked cooking individual portions in the ramekins. It made a very nice presentation. My broiler is quite hot, so I had to move the ramekins farther from the heat. I also cooked until the yolks were hard — as we do not like runny yolks. Adding the cream and the butter naturally increased the fat and calorie content, so I think I will elect to instead scramble the eggs using the herbs and garlic and not adding the extra cream and butter. I expect it will still be wonderful.

— Sandy Cadra, Oakdale

•  •  •

The eggs are actually broiled rather than baked. Had they been baked, I think the finished product might have been better. Although the flavor of fresh herbs is usually better than dried, it's hard to justify paying for fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary when only ¼ teaspoon is called for. The same goes for purchasing heavy cream, when only 2 tablespoons are used. The recipe goes together easily enough, as long as the cook has gratin-type dishes that can withstand the high heat of a broiler. For me, the real problem was with the broiling itself. The recipe doesn't specify how close to the broiler the dishes should be set. Although I kept a watch on the clock and the broiling process, I think the dishes must have been too close to the broiler. When I removed the dishes from the oven, the whites of the eggs seemed firm, but the yolks were almost overcooked and the whites were still runny underneath. In addition, the broiled herbed topping tasted almost bitter. I'm going to stick to baked egg recipes in which the eggs are actually baked!

— Marilyn Drew, Modesto

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