shirred eggs with tomato and cheddar

Having easy dishes like this stored in the back of your brain can come in very handy when you have an impromptu get-together. Great for breakfast, brunch, even a unique appetizer- these eggs are simple, elegant, and very quick to put together.

We had my mom's parents over this morning for brunch, and I made these eggs and a big batch of buttermilk biscuits. Accompanied by black forest bacon, sausage patties, and a fresh fruit salad, brunch doesn't get much better in my book.

My eldest sister is pregnant and visiting with her toddler, Lucas for a few weeks. To say I couldn't turn the camera away from him is not an understatement. The child is just beautiful, but the showstopper is the relationship between Lucas and Jessica- she is an amazing and inspiring mom. As the first great-grandchild on either side of our family, Lucas is doted on and treasured beyond measure.

Watching him with my sister- mama wawa? mama dirty. nonna woof? it continues to astound me how much he grows and changes into a larger person every time I see him. I can't wait to meet my next niece or nephew- cooking to order as we speak- and I know Lucas will be an incredible big brother. Lucas was what one may euphemistically refer to as a 'fussy baby' and most of the time I spent with him under the age of 1 year involved incessant screaming. Here's hoping for a placid newborn.

If you're making brunch any time soon, consider these eggs as an option. You can scale the recipe for as many people as you have coming, and it's a super easy way to feed a large group at once without fussing over plates or making a casserole. I did slightly alter the quantities that you will see in the photos- I photographed the first attempt, and I'm giving you the new-and-improved recipe. 

This can be completely assembled the day before and left in the fridge overnight. Just pop them in the oven when your guests arrive. Super easy! Of course, you can do them the same morning too, but hey..I'm all for streamlining.

Here's how it's done:

Chop up some really ripe tomatoes until you have 3-3 1/2 cups. If you don't have fresh, you can use *gasp* canned, but it won't be the same.

Saute the tomatoes, covered and seasoned LIBERALLY with salt and pepper, for ten minutes. Stir them occasionally.

Preheat your oven to 450.

While the tomatoes are cooking, chop up the cheddar cheese. I like to slice it, then cut it crosswise. Two reasons: 1. I've already dirtied the knife and cutting board, so no need for the grater and 2. the large chunks don't entirely melt, giving you nice cheesy bites with your eggs.

Fun fact: Your cheese is much, much, much less likely to mold if you never handle it with your fingers or hands. Always use plastic or gloves when handling cheese that you don't intend to use right away. Carefully wrap the extra back up without touching it with your bare hands.

Fun fact: Your cheese is much, much, much less likely to mold if you never handle it with your fingers or hands. Always use plastic or gloves when handling cheese that you don't intend to use right away. Carefully wrap the extra back up without touching it with your bare hands.

After cutting the slices, I just stack them up and cut them into chunks. Grater? Who needs it!

After cutting the slices, I just stack them up and cut them into chunks. Grater? Who needs it!

Once the tomatoes have cooked down, pour the whole mess into a fine-mesh sieve and strain out the seeds and skins.

Set aside your tomato puree- it will be very loose and runny. Butter your ramekins well and divide the puree between them evenly. Top with two eggs in each ramekin.

You should have more puree in each cup than pictured. Remember, I changed the recipe!

You should have more puree in each cup than pictured. Remember, I changed the recipe!

When cracking the eggs into the ramekins, be careful not to break the yolks unless you want your eggs well done. 

Top each egg mixture with equal parts of the cheese, then season with salt and pepper, and finish with a verrrrry thinly sliced tomato.

At this point, you can cover your ramekins and put them in the fridge until ready to bake. Or, make them now!

Depending how well done you like your eggs, you can cook them on a sheet pan according to the following rubric:

Over easy (yolks runny, whites barely set) 10-11 minutes

Over medium (yolks slightly runny, whites set) 12-13 minutes

Over hard (yolks cooked through, whites very hard) 14-16 minutes- break the yolks with a knife before putting in the oven to get a proper hard egg

Serve immediately! Delicious with something to sop up all the eggy goodness...might I suggest buttermilk biscuits?

Enjoy. I'm trying out a new recipe format- let me know what you think in the comments!