Eggs Baked on a Bed of Sautéed Mushrooms and Croutons

Eggs Baked on a Bed of Sautéed Mushrooms and Croutons
Excerpted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen (Broadway Books, 2005). Copyright 2005 by Deborah Madison. Used with permission of the publisher.

Serves 2

When you're tired but want to cook a little and not just heat something up, this offers just the right amount of involvement to feel as if you've done something nice for yourself. I like the texture the bread provides, but you can bake eggs over all kinds of things, such as stewed summer tomatoes, sautéed peppers, leftover ratatouille, braised spinach, and so forth.

With a glass of wine and a salad with a good mustardy dressing, this is my idea of a perfect supper for one or two people (not that it can't be multiplied). And it justifies having a number of single-serving, low-sided terra-cotta gratin dishes.

These eggs call for a simple workingman's Burgundy from Côte Chalonnaise, such as Aubert Villaine's Mercurey, or a Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County, such as Au Bon Climat.

Note: While the oven is heating, brown the bread cubes and sauté the mushrooms. By then the oven will be ready. Don't use a convection setting—the moving air will blow on the yolks and cook them unevenly.

2 tablespoons butter
2 slices bread, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced shallot or onion
6 large brown mushrooms, cremini or Portobello, thickly sliced (about 1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 generous teaspoons tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine, preferably the wine you'll be drinking
2 or 4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly butter 2 shallow baking dishes and set them on a sheet pan.

2. Melt half the butter in a medium skillet, add the cubed bread, and toss it about the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until it's golden and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes, but not hard. Divide the croutons between the dishes.

3. Heat the oil and remaining butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Raise the heat, then add the mushrooms, most of the herbs, and a few pinches of salt. Sauté until the mushrooms have started to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the wine and immediately scrape the pan to release the juicy bits. Lower the heat and simmer until a few tablespoons of juice remain. Season with salt and pepper and divide the mushrooms between the dishes.

4. Break one of two eggs over the croutons and mushrooms and add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Bake until the white are set, about 15 minutes, and the yolks are as firm as you like. Remove, sprinkle the rest of the herbs over the top, and serve.

LYNNE'S TIPS

Use a good coarse grain, country-style bread here. Soft, pillowy white bread won't give the same results.

Organic eggs really do make a difference and the cost differential is minimal. Buy local if you can.

Improvise. Thick slices of red or yellow peppers could stand in for the mushrooms, or thin slices of cauliflower or broccoli. Try different herbs like basil or thyme.

While it takes the recipe out of the vegetarian category, a few strips of good apple wood-smoked bacon that you've chopped and sautéed along with the mushrooms is a whole other world of flavor.
THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE

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