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Sunday brunch has long been my favorite meal of the week. It’s a huge deal in New Orleans, and I’d always indulge whenever I found myself there after a long night of doing what college kids do on Saturday night. (No, never Bourbon Street — we had some standards.) Once I moved to the working world after grad school, my cravings went unsatisfied; I was the hardest-working woman in St. Louis on Sundays, you see. After my gig as minister of music at a local church, I went straight to my day job for a double shift of putting the catalog to bed for the week. Saturday brunches just weren’t the same, somehow, so I sucked it up until I moved to NY and got to enjoy the boozy brunches offered all over the city.

Sadly, there aren’t any places in Ringwood for a proper brunch, so I’m left to my own devices when the mood strikes. And strike it did this very morning. So, inspired by a Mario Batali recipe, I decided to make use of lovely hen of the woods mushrooms from Trader Joe’s and tomatoes from my friend Mew’s garden (lucky duck, her yard gets plenty of sunshine and no deer at all).

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I didn’t want the typical scrambled/fried/poached egg and bacon axis — though a side of bacon was a no-brainer — and remembered a baked egg recipe from Orangette I’d been meaning to try. (Btw, she’s getting married today — let’s all send good thoughts her way!) Apart from my ramekins being too small (which later spelled disaster), it seemed like an easy enough recipe to attempt in my morning-addled state.

I washed the mixing bowl thoroughly to remove any speck of grease and set the whites to whipping. As the stand mixer was doing its thing, I grated the cheese and greased the ramekins. It all went smoothly, though I made a couple of extras just in case my previous bad luck with meringues/soufflés continued.

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While a couple of yolks went Frank Lee Morris on me, the other two remained where they should’ve and put a fine spin on the typical eggy brunch dish. The yolks were blanketed with creme fraiche and nestled into delicate clouds of cheese with the faintest crunch on the edges. Yummmmmm…

Despite the rich cream, this was the most ephemeral of brunch dishes and one I’ll definitely try again, only next time with larger ramekins.

recipes after the jump

Braised Mushrooms adapted from Food Network

1 slice bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 oz. hen of the woods mushrooms, thickly sliced
handful of grape tomatoes
olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
splash of white wine
truffle oil
chopped parsley, for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Quarter grape tomatoes and toss with olive oil, salt, and thyme. Roast on a greased baking sheet until tomatoes are soft and starting to blister, about 15 minutes.

While tomatoes are roasting, sauté bacon, parsley, garlic, and olive in pan until bacon fat has rendered. Add mushrooms, a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are dry. Add roasted tomatoes and a splash of white wine to the pan and cook until mushrooms are dry again.

To serve, drizzle with truffle oil and topped with chopped parsley.

Baked Eggs from Orangette

Butter, for greasing ramekins
6 large eggs
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 oz coarsely grated Cantal cheese, about 1 cup (I used Manchego because we had it on hand. It caused no problems.)
6 Tbs crème fraiche
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Position an oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 6 (8-ounce) ramekins or a 9″-by-13″ baking dish. If you are using ramekins, place them on a rimmed baking sheet for ease of transport.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large mixing bowl and carefully sliding the whole, unbroken yolks into a small bowl of cold water.

Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the egg whites with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream of tartar until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold in ½ cup cheese gently but thoroughly. Divide the egg white mixture among ramekins or transfer to the baking dish, smoothing the top slightly. [The whites will stand above the rims of the ramekins.] Make an indentation in the center of the whites in each ramekin, or, if you are using the baking dish, make 6 evenly spaced indentations. Using your fingers, carefully remove the yolks from the water one at a time, and slip one yolk into each indentation.

Stir the crème fraiche so that it is smooth and free of lumps, and spoon one tablespoon on top of each yolk. Sprinkle the eggs with the remaining cheese.

Bake the eggs until the whites are puffed and pale golden, 10 to 14 minutes. The yolks should jiggle slightly. Sprinkle with chives, and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

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