We had our choice of several quick dishes to cook with Michael Ruhlman when the Cleveland food writer came to The Washington Post recently to work from his latest cookbook.
So why did we go with this one, perhaps the simplest? To show off some of the technique and attentiveness inherent in "Ruhlman's Twenty" (Chronicle, 2011).
He is comfortable being identified as "nerdy" when it comes to such matters. Using a perforated spoon, which, it just so happens, is available for purchase at Ruhlman.com, strains away wispy, "flyaway" egg whites; adding fat (butter, cream, cheese) helps the eggs cook gently, in addition to lending flavor; understanding your oven and a bit of science will help you to pull the eggs from the oven just before they're done.
You'll need individual shallow ramekins, and in true Ruhlman spirit, you'll need to read this recipe all the way through, organize all your ingredients and equipment and make a clean, cleared work space before you begin.
Serve with a salad and toasted bread.
1 small shallot (optional)
4 to 8 teaspoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 1 sprig tarragon, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have 4 shallow ramekins and a baking sheet at hand. (The sheet is optional, although you might find it handy for handling the ramekins.)
If you plan to use a shallot, mince it now. Grate the cheese if needed.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of the butter into each ramekin. Heat on low (either in the microwave or on the stove top) until the ramekins are hot and the butter has melted. Swirl to coat evenly.
Crack open 2 of the eggs, letting them fall into a medium bowl. Use a large perforated spoon to transfer them to one of the ramekins, letting any wispy drips of egg white strain away as you work. Repeat to use all of the eggs.
Arrange the ramekins on the baking sheet. Pour 1 tablespoon of the cream or half-and-half into each ramekin. Sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of the cheese and some of the shallot, if using. Bake for about 10 minutes, starting to check for doneness at 8 minutes. The whites should be just set, with maybe a bit that has not yet become opaque, and the yolks should look as though they could break and run easily.
If you wish to finish the eggs under the broiler (to brown the cheese), remove the eggs from the oven after 5 to 7 minutes, then position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element. Broil the eggs just until the cheese develops a little color.
Season lightly with salt and pepper and garnish with a few tarragon leaves just before serving.
Nutrition Per serving (using cream): 220 calories, 14g protein, 1g carbohydrates, 18g fat, 8g saturated fat, 450mg cholesterol, 240mg sodium, 0g dietary fiber, 0g sugar.