Can a dinner be called adorable? If, say, it consists of one delicate little egg sitting sweetly atop a bed of herbed, tender leeks, bathed in a fillip of cream and gently dusted with salt and pepper, then I would say yes. Besides, anything served in a nice, white ramekin is just so cute. Did I just lose all my male readers with that? I'm sorry, don't leave. You'll want to eat this, too, I promise. Besides, the ramekin was my idea. If you have a cazuela, or other ceramic dish that's a little bigger than a twee little ramekin, you can turn this into a two-or-three egg meal in a flash.
The recipe comes from Camino in Oakland and is just right for those solo dinners at home, though it's also easily multiplied so that everyone at your table can have their own little ramekin. In fact, I recommend that no matter how many people you're cooking for, you make an extra pile of the herbed leeks. (1/4 cup of leeks just feels...unnecessarily fussy.) What do you do with extra cooked leeks? Oh ho ho. Do you have an hour? Stir them into pasta or leftover rice. Use them as sandwich filling or to give scrambled eggs an edge. Mixed with boiled potatoes and milk and puréed, then thinned as desired, you can have anything from leek mashed potatoes to shortcut potage Parmentier (not to mention vichyssoise). They keep well in the fridge for a bit and deepen their flavor as the hours go by and seem to be one of the most useful vegetables ever.
I love useful vegetables.
Anyway, that's about the hardest part of the recipe, cleaning the leeks, that is. I cooked them longer than the recipe called for, about ten minutes, because I like stewy leeks that grow sweeter with each passing minute. Cooking the leeks for just two minutes gives them a bit more bite. Do as you like best. I piled a small amount of the leeks into a ramekin, cracked an egg over the top, poured a few spoonfuls of half-and-half on top and did some artful pepper-cracking. After exactly 12 minutes in a hot oven, I pulled out a savory-sweet baked egg, cream bubbling at the edge, white set just so, and yolk still gorgeously runny.
Ooh, runny yolks. The best part, wouldn't you say?
Armed with a heel of crusty bread, I polished off my adorable dinner in minutes. Eyeing the remaining leeks in the pan, and the oven I'd serendipitously left on, it only took me a few seconds to decide to make a second helping.
Adorable, schmadorable. These are good.
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Egg Baked in Cream
Serves 1 with leftover leeks for many uses
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 leeks, sliced, light green and white parts only
2 sprigs thyme, leaves roughly chopped
2 sprigs parsley, leaves roughly chopped
1 large farm-fresh egg
About 2 tablespoons half-and-half
Coarsely ground black pepper
Grilled or toasted bread slices
1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, a splash of water and a pinch of salt and cook until the leeks are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the herbs and transfer to a 6-inch cazuela, cocotte or other ceramic dish, covering the bottom with the butter, leeks and herbs.
2. Crack the egg into the middle of the dish. Add enough half-and-half to barely cover the white. Sprinkle with salt and coarsely ground pepper. Cook until the white is set, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve with grilled or toasted bread.