I had forgotten how much I like properly shirred (baked) eggs, until this past Sunday, when I was searching for a simple, yet elegant dish for my wife and I to enjoy for Sunday brunch. I wasn’t in the mood for an omelet and we always tend to do a variation on Benedicts when looking for something a little special so I went digging around in my cookbooks and was reminded of shirred eggs. I hadn’t done something like that in years, so it would be a novel dish for my wife, and better yet, Shirred Eggs is one of those dishes that is just ripe for variations.

At its most simple, Shirred Eggs, are eggs that have been placed into a shallow custard cup, seasoned with salt and pepper, and topped with a little butter to help keep the top from drying out, then baked just until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Not really. Like a good poached egg, shirred eggs are fine on their own, if not a little bland, but it is when they are part of a dish that they rise above their humble stature and become something almost sublime.

Virtually anything can be used as a base on which to make Shirred Eggs. Some of the more common bases are creamed spinach, various types of hashes, seafood, cooked grains, ham, bacon, other cooked meats and various other vegetables. Just like with omelets, the choice is really limited only by your imagination. Because I was looking for simply elegant this time I reigned the imagination in and created the recipe below, which serves 2. I accompanied the Shirred Eggs with toast and Maple Glazed Bacon, the recipe for which is below also.

Shirred Eggs with Ham & Manchego Cheese

4 each Eggs
1 tsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Yellow onion, finely minced
1/2 cup Ham, finely diced
1/2 cup Tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 tsp. Fresh Tarragon, finely minced
4 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Manchego cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.Heat the butter, in a small saute pan, over medium high heat. As the butter finishes melting add the onions and cook without browning. Add the ham and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tarragon. Heat just to warm the tomatoes then remove from heat. Divide the tomato-ham mixture between 4 small creme brulee cups or ramekins and spread evenly. Crack an egg into each cup or ramekin and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle each egg with 1 Tbsp. of cream. Sprinkle the cheese over top, dividing the cheese evenly among the 4 cups. Bake for 12-14 minutes, checking them after 10. Eggs are done when the whites are just set but the yolks are still runny. Serve immediately as the eggs will continue to cook a little longer.

Maple Glazed Bacon

Take 4 slices of thick cut, smoky bacon and cut them in half. Cook over medium high heat until 3/4 of the way done. Drain on paper towel. Meanwhile remove rendered fat from pan and wipe pan clean. Lower heat to medium low and add the bacon back to the pan. Brush with real maple syrup, flip over and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. After about 1 minute brush other side with maple syrup. Flip over, when time and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a cooking rack, set over a sheet tray, to crisp up. Make sure that bacon is not touching each other as it cools as it has a tendency to want to stick until it cools slightly.