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