Sunday, March 19, 2006

Breakfast Week 1: Coddled Eggs

egg coddlers

Breakfast Week 2006 got started about eight days ago. Saturday the 11th, to be exact. That was the morning I turned to Michelle and said, "Hey, Michelle! How 'bout some coddled eggs?" Okay, maybe I didn't say it like that, but the important thing is that we dusted off the egg coddlers for the first time in a couple of months and gave them a whirl.

We got hooked a few years ago now when Michelle came back from a stay in New York City suddenly obsessed with coddling eggs. When I told her I had no idea what egg coddlers or coddled eggs were (my background isn't Anglo-Saxon in the least and I haven't stayed in that many B & Bs), she gave me one of those withering looks she likes to give every now and again, then said something to the effect of, "We simply must get a pair!" (Come to think of it, maybe she first encountered them that time she met one of the Lindberghs on her way back from New York. That might explain that faux-Hepburn she was affecting.) In any case, this sudden fixation of hers turned to into a 12-month quest for "proper egg coddlers" (not the kind they're pushing at Dollarama, apparently), one that finally came to an end when Les Touilleurs started to stock them a couple of years ago. As is typical with these kinds of quests, not long after we got our first set of egg coddlers, we started to find them all over the place (thrift stores, garage sales, junk shops, antique shops). Now we've got three sets of two, including the fetching ones you see in the picture above, and the extra sets come in handy from time to time when we have guests in from out of town.

"Yeah, yeah... So what in god's name are coddled eggs and why should I care?" Right you are. Egg coddlers (proper ones, that is) are small porcelain jars with a screw-top lid that essentially allow you to soft-boil eggs after having dispensed of their nasty little shells. The advantage being that you can "boil" them with any assortment of butter, herbs, cheese, meats, and seasonings, developing tasty egg combinations of all sorts. We like to keep things fairly simple: a bit of butter (a little fat is mandatory), a half teaspoon of freshly chopped herbs, a tiny bit of cheese (especially something like a gruyère or a sharp cheddar), some coarse salt (Maldon salt, for instance), some freshly ground pepper, maybe some paprika. If we're feeling particularly decadent, we might add some freshly fried bacon bits, or maybe a little dry spicy sausage.

The method: Butter the inside of your egg coddlers. Crack open two eggs for each coddler, being careful not to break the yolks as you do so. (Aesthetics, dear readers, aesthetics!). Add your ingredients to the inside of the coddler. You don't need to bother trying to mix the ingredients around evenly because this will happen naturally, to a certain extent, as the eggs cook inside. In any case, one of the pleasures of eating coddled eggs has to do with unscrewing the lid, admiring the perfection within, then laying waste to it, swirling the ingredients with abandon as you dig down through them with your spoon, finding that perfect combination of layers. Screw the lids on just so, making sure not to screw them on too tightly. Now place them in a medium saucepan and fill it with water until the waterline reaches just below where the lid starts. Place the saucepan on a burner on high heat, bring to a boil, and cook the eggs in their coddlers for seven minutes after they reach a rolling boil. This may seem like a long time, but, when it comes to coddled eggs, seven is the lucky number. The eggs will have set, the yolks will still be runny, and the ingredients will have worked their magic throughout.

We love our boiled eggs and our eggs over easy, but every couple of months coddled eggs make for a particularly nice brunch. Like this one: coddled eggs with cheddar and herbs, Hungarian paprika bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and homefries. Kind of a "Full English+".

best brunch in Mile End

Coddled eggs. They're not just for Bed & Breakfast anymore.

aj

Note: Need your own set of egg coddlers? You can usually find egg coddlers at Les Touilleurs, Arthur Quentin, and Quincaillerie Dante (see our Montreal Food Guide for details). You can probably find them in Westmount, too.

8 comments:

Ivonne said...

AJ,

I absolutely adore your blog! This is a fantastic post first of all because it is so entertaining to read.

Secondly, I learned something new! I had no idea there was such a think as egg coddlers. To be honest I've never had coddled eggs but you've made them sound so good that I think I will have to put egg coddlers on my list of kitchen items to buy.

Thanks for the great post (and instructions)!

Anonymous said...

Great post AJ and I agree with Ivonne; I too will definitely get a pair of egg coddlers.

Alexis

aj kinik said...

Wow. Now that's what I call enthusiasm. Thanks for the feedback, Ivonne and Alexis. One thing I didn't mention. There's no reason you couldn't cook just a single egg in your egg coddler/s (obviously). I'm not sure because I've never tried it, but I have a feeling the cooking time would be slightly different. My feeling is, "what's the point?", though. I only break the coddlers out every couple of months, why limit myself to one measly egg on such an occasion.

Kyenta said...

Just came across your blog looking for something else - I like it!

Anyway, years ago I used to sell coddlers in Victoria, BC. We used to get many Brits into the shop and I they would tell me recipes and tips once they found out that I really like coddles eggs. In particular, one recommendation has always stuck with me. The lady leaned in and whispers like she was telling me one of her prized secret recipes... a teaspoon of tomato sauce and a drop of sherry on top of the egg. To quote her, it is "divine!".

Anyway, keep coddling! :-)

Craig said...

Yay! I finally know of somebody else who has an egg coddler. We have an old pair from my wife's family, and we love using them.

chrissytx said...

I am so happy I found this site. I went to a British Tea House for lunch today ( in Texas) and bought a pair of beautiful porcelain coddlers. I am going to try them out tonight. Sounds so good !!

Unknown said...

I've had a hankering for coddled eggs for a while. I need to hunt done some of the porcelain coddlers like my parents had.

Unknown said...

I have been hankering for coddled eggs for a while now. I wish I had my parent's coddlers!