Okay, my dears. Let’s put those take-out menus away for the night. You won’t need them this evening – I’ve got something better for you. In fact, I can offer you dinner in less than half an hour, and you can sip wine while you wait for it to cook. You like that? I thought so. Ready? Okay then.
Here’s what you do. Come home hungry and preferably a bit worn out by the day. Crave something comforting and warm. And be hell-bent on making your own dinner, but not breaking a sweat. The next part should be easy. I know you can do this and I know you’ll be stellar at it.
Find a few ingredients that you probably have lying around your kitchen anyway: eggs, onions (or leeks!), cream, some herbs. Really, any herbs will do, even the dry ones, but your fresh ones will be magical here; and make yourself a baked egg. It’s the perfect eat-alone food. Really.
Last week, CBS’s The Early Show came to my apartment to find out what I eat alone, as they were doing a segment based on Deborah Madison’s new book. I showed them a plate of herring and potatoes, some pelmeni and this egg baked in cream. These were some of the easy go-to dishes I make for myself. The herring and pelmeni remind me of my childhood in Russia, and this egg is the perfect one-person meal: quick, easy, healthy and comforting. Best of all, no fancy ingredients are needed – this recipe requires things that are probably already pantry staples.
The thing is, that it’s so easy for us, at least here in New York, to pick up the phone and order take out. We have our favorite restaurants on speed-dial and we even know what we want without having to glance at the menu. But here’s the thing, making these eggs for dinner, you’re really taking care to nourish yourself. You know exactly what goes into this meal. It is wholesome, nourishing, warm. And it cooks in minutes. In fact, it cooks faster than take-out arrives. I think there’s comfort in making something for yourself. It’s a little bit indulgent and even somewhat meditative. Layering your leeks, spreading harissa, gently sliding the egg on top, and pouring those few spoons of cream for softer, richer flavor. Simplicity can be luxurious too.
Of course, it was my most embarrassing, dark secret (not anymore!) admission – my love of bologna sandwiches – that made the cut on the television segment, and not this glorious egg. Of course, it serves me right, being so low-brow in my guilty indulgences. I should, in my defense, add however, that the bologna I had in mind, is what the Russians refer to as Doktoraskaya bologna – which I get in Russian delis. The Russian stuff is seriously good, and once you try it, you will never go back to your old bologna again. I promise you.
And while this dish never got mention, I think it’s something you should try your hand at. Unless you have Russian bologna on hand. In which case, I say, make yourself a sandwich. And please – invite me over.
But wait! Can’t we watch this infamous clip of your bologna love?
Ah, yes, of course! Here is the clip of me embarrassing myself on national TV!
Eggs Baked in Cream
Adapted from The New York Times
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sliced leeks, light green and white parts only or caramelized onions
1-2 teaspoons harissa (spicy Tunisian roasted pepper paste)
2 sprigs parsley, leaves roughly chopped
1 large egg
2 tbsp or so half-and-half
coarsely ground black pepper
grilled or toasted bread slices (I highly recommend a fragrant, porous, rustic bread for this endeavor. It’ll prove to be a great vehicle for your egg yolk, into which you can dip the bread. Sliced, soft bread is not appropriate for this dish, even though it’s an eat-alone kind of a meal.)
1. With a rack set in the middle of the oven, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Melt butter over medium heat in a small sauté pan and add sliced leeks along with a splash of water and a pinch or two of salt. Cook until leeks are tender, soft, and caramelized about 20 minutes. (Usually, I have caramelized leeks or onions lying around in my fridge, remainders from another dish I made before, so they’re already cooked).
3. Transfer the leeks (or onions) to a ramekin or a small baking dish and line the bottom of the dish with them. Sprinkle a few parsley leaves on top, reserving a few bits for garnish. Spread, in a thin layer, the harissa atop the herbs.
4. Crack the egg and gently slide it into the middle of the dish. Add the half-and-half so it covers the white. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Bake your egg for 8-12 minutes (I usually set my timer to 10 minutes, and my oven gets it just right). You want to make sure the white is set.
6. Serve immediately with grilled or toasted bread.
Serves 1 hungry, tired person, intent on making his own dinner that night.