Eggs-ceptional Memories

My late-Dad never met an egg he didn’t savor.

Indeed, among my earliest memories of my father are of him standing at the stove on weekends, cracking eggs. Sometimes he’d fry them up in butter, sunny-side up or scramble them with diced Spam or leftover bits of Chinese barbecued pork.

Other times, he’d flip them into omelets stuffed with melted cheddar cheese and sweet-acidic stewed tomatoes from a can. And now and then, he’d delicately bake them in individual Pyrex dishes dusted with bright paprika and Kraft Parmesan shaken right out of the familiar green can.

My Dad’s love of eggs didn’t stop at breakfast. Occasionally, when we’d sit down to a dinner of various Chinese dishes at home, my Dad would be at the stove, frying up an egg over-easy, which he deposited on top of the mound of steamed white rice on his plate. Then, he’d drizzle on a little thick, savory oyster sauce. I’d watch him break the bright yolk with his fork until it ran over the pearly grains. He never said a word as he took that first bite. But I could tell just from his contented expression that this simple combination of rice and egg was one that brought him untold comfort.

Is it any wonder that one of the first things I learned to cook by myself were eggs? I learned just by watching my Dad all those mornings, so that by the time I was in elementary school, I could whip up an omelet just like that or scramble a few eggs until they were lovely, fluffy, soft curds.

Even today, I share my Dad’s appreciation of eggs. No matter what time of day, if you have these inexpensive staples in the fridge, you have have the makings of a simple, satisfying meal. They’ve saved me many a time when I needed nourishment in a hurry for a harried lunch or late dinner.

When I saw “Shirred Eggs in Prosciutto Crudo Cups” in the new “Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by my friends, the prolific cookbook authors, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, I knew it would be the perfect dish to make near Father’s Day in memory of my late-Dad.

To be sure, my Dad probably never even knew the term, “shirred.” No doubt, he would have thought the addition of prosciutto too fancy. Still, there’s no mistaking that at its heart, this dish of baked eggs is very reminiscent of what my Dad used to make for me as a child.

His ol’ Pyrex dish gives way to ramekins in this rendition. They’re lined with paper-thin slices of prosciutto crudo (the cured but technically “raw” ham that you all love wrapped with melon) to form “cups” that get baked in the oven till crisp. The “cups” will shrink a little, but don’t fret. Just dollop a little rosemary- and chive-infused cream on the bottom of them, then crack an egg into each one. Bake again until the eggs are set.  Serve with buttered toast, roasted potatoes, a light green salad or sauteed veggies.

The herbs add a brightness to the soft eggs enveloped in salty, sweet, rich porky flavor.

I dig my fork with pleasure into this flashback dish, which can’t help but make me think of my Dad, just as every wonderful egg dish does.

Shirred Eggs in Prosciutto Crudo Cups

(Makes 6 servings)

1/4  cup heavy or whipping cream

2 tablespoons minced chives or the green part of a scallion

2 tablespoons minced rosemary needles

Unsalted butter for greasing the muffin tin or ramekins

12 paper-thin prosciutto crudo slices

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Warm the cream, minced chives and rosemary in a small saucepan over medium heat just until little bubbles ring the inside of the pan, 3 or 4 minutes. Cover and set aside off the heat for 30 minutes to steep.

Meanwhile, set the rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 6 indentations in a standard (1/2 to 2/3 cup each)  muffin tin, or six 1/2 cup oven-safe ramekins.

Line each indentation or ramekin with 2 prosciutto crudo slices, crimping and overlapping them to create the outline of the indentation as well as a little lip on each. If necessary, tear strips so they fill the indentations without any gaps or holes.

Set tin in the oven or the ramekins on a baking sheet and then in the oven. In either case, bake until prosciutto begins to get crisp at its edges, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the very hot muffin tin or tray with the ramekins to a wire rack and divide cream mixture among the indentations, a scant tablespoon in each cup.

Crack an egg into each indentation, then top each egg with pepper. Set tin or tray with its ramekins back into the oven and bake just until eggs are set, about 8 minutes for a softer yolk and 12 minutes for a more set yolk.

From “Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter” by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Another Recipe from Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough: “Thyme Roasted Shrimp”

And Another: “Maple Blondies with Butterscotch and Cocoa Nibs”

More: “My Posh Pantry Pasta” and My First Experience with Farm-Fresh Eggs

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