Tired and cranky. Those words best described my mood before I discovered that my dog, Gus, had scratched a couple of sutures out of his face Sunday morning. Stitches that were oh-so-carefully put into place after a biopsy last week. After parting with a gazillion (more) dollars at the emergency veterinary clinic that morning, I returned home pretty much exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, but it was after noon, my stomach was empty, and I knew I needed to consume something moderately healthy if I had any chance of making it to Monday.
My refrigerator's contents determined the midday meal, though I was interested only in warm, comforting dishes, things that would make the world seem a little less topsy-turvy. Eggs were the only available protein source, but a quick scramble or omelet wasn't special enough. I needed a mood-changer, something outside of my regular routine. Enter the coddled egg.
As the name implies, coddled eggs are cooked very gently, almost indulgently. Cracked into a coffee cup or ramekin that's placed into a larger dish filled with hot water, coddled eggs cook slowly with this until the whites are firm and yolks straddle the line between set and slightly runny. Plain coddled eggs are nice, but I always tart them up a bit, placing cooked vegetables or a piece of toasted bread and cheese in the bottom of the container. The result? A more interesting, flavorful dish, one that's worth a little bit of effort.
I made creamed spinach to accompany my egg, but any cooked vegetable will do. I've used sauteed mushrooms, quickly cooked tomato tossed with cracked olives, even a few tablespoons of leftover mashed potatoes sprinkled with fresh herbs. Just spoon a bit of the selected veg (or meat) into the bottom of a buttered ramekin, crack an egg on top, and create a bain marie — breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) will be ready within 30 minutes.
Coddled Egg with Creamed Spinach
Serves 1 (with lots of extra spinach)
1/2 cup cream
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 small onion
1 large bunch of spinach, stems remove, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scald the cream with garlic and onion in a small saucepan (small bubbles will come to the surface — shut off the heat and set aside).
Cook the spinach in a few teaspoons of butter until the pan is dry. Strain the cream and pour it into the pan with the spinach. Bring to a simmer and allow it to thicken. Season with salt, pepper, and a few gratings of nutmeg.
Place a few tablespoons of creamed spinach in to buttered ramekin. Crack an egg into the ramekin, then place it in a small ovenproof pan (Pyrex is a great choice). Bring water to a boil in a kettle, then pour just enough of it into the pan that contains the ramekin to come 3/4 way up its side. Place the pan into a preheated oven and baked for 20-25 minutes, until the egg is set. The white will be firm, the yolk still runny when broken into. Serve with toast.