As food groups go, the egg is one of our most versatile ingredients. Prepare it simply, dress it up with common or elegant ingredients, manipulate it with good technique; the versatile egg has the ability change into something completely unlike itself.
An egg can be a snack, a meal, a condiment or a building block for something grand. In the home, an egg is a culinary hero. In professional kitchens, a poorly prepared egg can be a career killer. In my case, the egg marks my relationship with cooking.
Early in my days of cooking, I mangled even the simplest preparation. Later, I simply advocated my egg-cooking duties to boyfriends and feigned ignorance. A handful of years ago I gathered my courage and began cooking eggs with an experimental attitude. Now, after a year of serious cooking and culinary studies, I see a dozen eggs as an opportunity to step up to the stove and prove what I’ve learned. Sometimes, my eggs turn out to be really, really good.
This Eggs al Forno dish (Italian for baked eggs) is a recipe I developed after tasting a baked egg on toast that my friend Bryant Ng (former Chef of Pizzeria Mozza) pulled from a pizza oven. Though simple, the dish has all the bells and whistles: creamy soft eggs, crunchy fresh bread, the smoothness of a great olive oil and zing that only a well-made cheese can offer. Eggs al Forno is an effortless show stopper that requires great ingredients and a chef’s confidence.
I submitted this recipe to La Brea Bakery* and recently learned that they decided to feature it on their website recipe page. I include the recipe here with these suggestions: Hand select your ingredients: a great bread (wedge from an artisan bread like a sourdough, pullman or herb are good choices), a flavorful melting cheese (preferably Fontina or medium bodied sheeps milk cheese), a good finishing olive oil and maldon sea salt. Throw some prosciutto or bacon on top for some extra bacon love.
Eggs al Forno (Baked Eggs) For Two
2 miniature casserole dishes (6×4 inches)
1 tablespoon butter, softened
¼ of a La Brea Bakery Demi Baguette or regular sized Baguette (any variety), cut into 4 1-inch thick slices
¾ cup Fontina or mild cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven 500°F. Meanwhile, rub the inside of each mini-casserole dish with a portion of softened butter. This will prevent the ingredients from sticking to the dish. For each individual serving, place one or two slices of bread (in a single layer) on the bottom of the butter-lined casserole—making sure the bread fits snuggly—adding or trimming if necessary. Drizzle the bread with one tablespoon of olive oil. Then, add a sprinkling of half the grated Fontina cheese. Gently crack two eggs, adding them to the layer of grated cheese. Drizzle with one more tablespoon of oil. Repeat process for the other dish.
Place the two casserole dishes in the oven (you may place a cookie sheet underneath to protect your oven from bubbling ingredients) on the middle rack. Bake until eggs are set, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the casseroles from the oven. Top each serving with one tablespoon of Parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Using oven mitts, carefully place each casserole onto a dinner plate topped with a folded cloth napkin (this will ensure a more stable surface for the hot dish to rest on). Serve immediately, making sure to warn your loved one of the dishes’ hot temperature!
Full disclosure: I do freelance copy writing for La Brea Bakery’s marketing department.