Baked Eggs in Creamy Basil Sauce

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Suggested song to play while cooking: My Girl, by the Temptations

Ouefs en cocotte is a traditional French recipe; it translates to eggs cooked in ramekins (and just for this article I called up my mother to find out what a ramekin is. For those like me who don’t speak chef lingo, it’s a small bowl used for cooking, made from ceramic or glass). The main ingredients for ouefs en cocotte are: eggs, crème, butter, salt and pepper, and it’s usually paired with toast on the side. A couple years ago my sister found a variation of this simple yet sophisticated dish that gives the original everything it was missing.

Baked Eggs with Cheese and Basil Sauce

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh snipped basil, or ½ teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I use cheddar, mostly because it’s always in my fridge and mozzarella is not).
Snipped fresh basil (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For sauce, in a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. This is your rue (or roux to stick with the French theme). The rue is a thickening agent that will make your sauce nice and creamy. If using, stir in dried basil.

Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly—you’ll want to turn up the heat a bit too. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Remove from heat. If using, stir in 3 tablespoons fresh basil. I also melt in some cheddar cheese.

Lightly coat four 8- to 10-ounce round baking dishes or 6-ounce custard cups with cooking spray. To assemble, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the sauce into each prepared baking dish. Gently break an egg into the center of each dish; sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Spoon the remaining sauce over eggs.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Sprinkle with cheese. Let stand until cheese is melted. If desired, garnish with additional fresh basil.

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Feel free to keep the variation going; I add in some paprika and garlic, and if I need a wake-up call, a little bit of cayenne pepper. Grab hold of your inner scientist and start mixing shit, see what turns out great and what causes an unfortunate chemical reaction. WARNING, be careful with the basil! When my sister first made this, she used fresh basil and it was incredible. When I first made this, I used dried basil, and didn’t see the “or ½ teaspoon dried basil” part of the instructions. Let’s just say the dish was hardly edible, and I now treat dried basil with the respect and fear it deserves. Also, just because we like food to be aesthetically pleasing, you can add in some turmeric to the sauce to give it a golden yellow color.

If you have an oven that doesn’t heat up too well like me, I suggest cooking for the whole 20 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese on top and put it back in the oven for another two to three minutes. Word to the wise, it took a long time for me to learn how not to over-cook the eggs. Overcooked eggs are a rubbery, far too chewy to be pleasant texture. The eggs will cook a little bit longer while cooling, just like cookies, so let them sit for a couple minutes before testing if they are done.

This recipe is perfect for a lovely weekend morning, with the sun shining through the window and music playing in the background. It’s also great for hangovers, especially with added bacon bits.

Post by Shannon Moloney. Recipe and Photo from Better Homes and Gardens.com.

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