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Monday, September 12, 2011

Marsala baked eggs

French name: Oeufs en cocotte au vin
The original recipe is from a book about French "homestyle" cooking (as opposed to fancy-schmancy restaurant cooking).  It calls for Madeira wine, which I wasn't able to find the first time I made the recipe.  I used dry Marsala instead and have it that way ever since, as it was delicious!  I also think you could use Champagne for an ultra-luxe version of this dish...just leave out the tomato paste and substitute chicken for beef stock.  Other subsitutes include the original Madeira or another semi-dry red wine.

Shallots figure very prominently here and their particular flavor comes through very nicely, so it's worthwhile to procure some.  They don't taste exactly the same as onions (though I also don't go in for that "halfway between onion and garlic" description either), but if you absolutely cannot find shallots, use a quarter of a medium onion for each shallot.

In terms of make-ahead planning, you could double or triple  the sauce and freeze it ahead in portions that suit your family's appetite.  My husband thinks 2 eggs is one serving, while I think 1 egg is one serving, so I make 5 egg cups for the 4 of us.  Also the more you scale the recipe up, the more of the Marsala you'll use...one 750ml bottle will make this recipe about 3 times, or you can save it to use in dishes like Chicken Marsala or Marsala-glazed carrots.

Last note, you'll need some ceramic or Pyrex baking cups for this.  The classic ones are straight-sided ceramic cups that hold about 6 or 8 oz.  They're easy to fit 4 at a time into an 8x8 pan for the water bath they'll bake in, but in a pinch you can use ceramic coffee cups instead. 

Marsala Baked Eggs
Makes 8 small servings (or 4 large servings)

2 tbsp butter
4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp flour
1 cup Marsala
2 tsp tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme, marjoram or savory
8 eggs

Melt butter over medium heat and saute shallots until soft, 5-8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Whisk in flour, and cook 1 minute.  Whisk in Marsala and scrape any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Stir in tomato paste, beef stock and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer until the mixture is reduced by 1/3 in volume (about 6-10 minutes).  Season with thyme, and remove bay leaves.  You can fridge/freeze the sauce now if desired.

To cook, thaw sauce if frozen.  Divide mixture evenly among 8 ramekins.  Crack an egg into a bowl, being careful not to break the yolk (if you do, it's not the end of the world, just less aesthetically pleasing).  Slide the egg into a ramekin on top of the sauce and top with a small dot of butter.  Repeat with remaining eggs and ramekins. 

Ramekins in the bain-marie/water-bath
Position ramekins in a large baking dish.  Fill outer dish halfway with hot or boiling water (I recommend boiling water from an electric kettle if you're using cold sauce).  Carefully place the baking dish in a preheated oven and bake eggs 12-15 minutes at 375F (or a bit longer if you like them more set...I tend to cook them for 18 minutes for firm yolks).  Remember that the eggs will continue cooking after you pull them out of the oven, so pull them before they're as done as you want them.  Serve directly out of the ramekins or transfer to a small bowl for service. Pin It

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