Early mornings, when the world is dark and quiet, are my favourite. I used to hate waking early, but over the years, I’ve become more like my dad. Up early, coffee brewed, enjoying the quiet alone. Even though I don’t have to, I like to set an early morning alarm so that I don’t miss out on the most peaceful part of the day. The quiet hours of hearing nothing more than the cats’ pawsteps on the kitchen floor. The furnace downstairs clicking and groaning a few times before the warm air starts to flow. The coffee maker with its percolating bubbles that sound like swimming underwater.
The best mornings start early – hours before the sun rises. I’m into my second cup of coffee already when Bernard gets up. On our ‘weekends’ (which tend to fall Thursday/Fridays), we extend the morning as long as possible. Maybe an extra pot of coffee. An extra hour of lounging in slippers and PJs. And most certainly, a hot breakfast. With the snowstorms and frigid temperatures of the past week (daytime lows of -16C), we had our share of cozy, lazy mornings inside, fueled by good breakfasts that warm the body and soul.
When I was younger, my favourite breakfasts were of the sweet side: pancakes, waffles – anything topped with maple syrup and whipped cream was top of the list. These days, I crave eggs much more. And why wouldn’t you? These beautiful, free-range eggs never fail to have a thick shell, a deep orange yolk, and they actually taste rich, creamy and ‘eggy’. I feel good eating them – they come from happy chickens, they are full of protein, and they taste just the way that eggs should.
One of my favourite ways to cook eggs is a relatively new technique – new to me, that is. Shirred eggs came into my life in our Breakfast Cookery class in Culinary School. Essentially eggs baked in a ramekin and topped with cream (to keep them from drying out) and whatever delicious toppings you desire.These eggs come out creamy and perfect every time.
yield: breakfast for 2
- 4 eggs (use good, free-range eggs from happy chickens. I promise they are more delicious and you will feel better eating them)
- 2 TBSP cream
- 2 tsp green onions, finely chopped
- 2 TBSP parmesan cheese, finely grated
- fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
- Lightly butter two ramekins. Preheat oven to 325F.
- Carefully crack an egg into a small measuring cup, and then pour it into a ramekin. Repeat with all the eggs, so that each ramekin has two eggs. (This step helps ensure that the yolks remain intact, rather than cracking them directly into the ramekin).
- Pour a tablespoon of cream over each serving.
- Sprinkle the parmesan over the dishes, and then the onions.
- Place on baking sheet, and bake at 325F for 12-14 minutes. You want the whites to be cooked, and the yolks still runny.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve with hot buttered toast.
a microplane rasp yields the finest, fluffiest shards of parmesan. (And the name on my rasp? Anyone who cooks professionally knows that these things are like gold. Don’t label your microplane, and you’ll soon be shopping for a replacement).