Baked Eggs Florentine

From America's Test Kitchen Season 13: Sunday Brunch

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Why this recipe works:

Our recipe achieves the ideal combination of runny yolks nestled in fully set yet tender whites by turning up the oven to 500 degrees. Adding the raw eggs to preheated ramekins ensured that the heat transfer was rapid and that the egg whites cooked before the centered yolks had a chance to… read more

Our recipe achieves the ideal combination of runny yolks nestled in fully set yet tender whites by turning up the oven to 500 degrees. Adding the raw eggs to preheated ramekins ensured that the heat transfer was rapid and that the egg whites cooked before the centered yolks had a chance to catch up. Lining each ramekin with an impermeable roux-thickened sauce protected the edges of the whites from blistering or turning rubbery. Pulling the baked eggs from the oven when the whites had just turned opaque but still jiggled accounted for carryover cooking. In those final 10 minutes the heat of the ramekins finished cooking and setting the whites.

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Baked Eggs Florentine

Ideally, this dish should feature tender whites and runny yolks—but it almost never does. We baked hundreds of eggs trying to crack the code.

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Serves 6

In order for the eggs to cook properly, it is critical to add them to the hot filling–lined ramekins quickly. Use 6-ounce ramekins with 3 1⁄4-inch diameters, measured from the inner lip. It is imperative to remove the eggs from the oven just after the whites have turned opaque but are still jiggly—carryover cooking will finish the job. We developed this recipe using a glass baking dish; if using a metal baking pan, reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees. This recipe can be doubled. If doubling, bake the ramekins in two 13 by 9-inch dishes and increase the baking times in steps 3 and 4 by 1 minute.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 6 large eggs

Instructions

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees.

    2. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in half-and-half; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in spinach, Parmesan, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne.

    3. Lightly spray six 6-ounce ramekins with oil spray. Evenly divide spinach filling among ramekins. Using back of spoon, push filling 1 inch up sides of ramekins to create 1/8-inch-thick layer. Shape remaining filling in bottom of ramekin into 1 1/2-inch diameter mound, making shallow indentation in center of mound large enough to hold yolk. Place filled ramekins in 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. Bake until filling just starts to brown, about 7 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking.

    4. While filling is heating, crack eggs (taking care not to break yolks) into individual cups or bowls. Remove baking dish with ramekins from oven and place on wire rack. Gently pour eggs from cups into hot ramekins, centering yolk in filling. Lightly spray surface of each egg with oil spray and sprinkle each evenly with pinch salt. Return baking dish to oven and bake until whites are just opaque but still tremble (carryover heat will cook whites through), 6 to 8 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking.

    5. Remove dish from oven and, using tongs, transfer ramekins to wire rack. Let stand until whites are firm and set (yolks should still be runny), about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

    TO MAKE AHEAD: Follow recipe through step 3, skipping baking of lined ramekins. Wrap ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To serve, remove plastic and heat lined ramekins, directly from refrigerator, for additional 3 to 4 minutes (10 to 11 minutes total) before proceeding with recipe.

Technique

Dead Ends on the Path to Perfection

The inherent challenge in achieving a perfectly cooked baked egg is that the yolk needs to stay liquid (with a temperature hovering around 150 degrees) while the white needs to solidify (with a temperature of 165 degrees). Here are some of the wrong turns we took before getting both components to cook just right.

BAKED IN WATER BATH

 

THEORY: Water slows the heat transfer, giving the whites time to solidify without overcooking the yolks.

 

OUTCOME: Perfect whites; pasty yolks.

BAKED IN SALT BED

 

THEORY: Salt is an even better insulator than water, providing the yolks with more protection.

 

OUTCOME: Perfect whites; slightly less pasty yolks.

BAKED IN BLAZING HOT RAMEKINS

 

THEORY: The walls of preheated ramekins should give the whites a head start without harming the yolks.

 

OUTCOME: Perfect yolks; blistered whites.

Technique

A Cradle for Your Egg

Our key to perfect baked eggs: cradling them in preheated ramekins lined with a filling. The hot filling gives the whites just the right jump start on cooking, allowing them to set while the yolks remain runny.

 

To ensure that the yolk stays centered (and away from the heat of the ramekin walls), we mound some of the filling in the middle of the ramekin and create a cavity that holds the yolk in place.

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