Post by Alison Hein
The term “au gratin” translates literally from the French as “with the gratings” or “with the scrapings,” and refers to a cooking technique that requires covering a dish with breadcrumbs or cheese and baking or broiling until a golden crust is formed.
Something wonderful happens during that time in the oven – flavors are converged and merged, blended and deepened, harmonized and crisped. This habit-forming recipe results in a mélange of rich cream sauce, tangy cheddar, and softly baked eggs. The conclusion? A decadent morning mac & cheese, where the eggs play the role of pasta.
Once you’re hooked, try some of these (or your own) modifications:
- Place a layer of meat or fish (ham, cooked bacon, or smoked salmon) at the bottom of the dish before baking.
- Try some vegetables as a base – caramelized onions, wilted spinach, or roasted red peppers.
- Experiment with different cheeses (a parmesan / mozzarella combo, or a spicy jalapeño jack)
- Use a bigger baking dish, double or triple the recipe amounts, and serve this up for company (you may need to lengthen the cooking time for more eggs)
- Or, best of all, skinny it down by cutting the recipe in half. Make it just for yourself in a personal-sized ramekin for a decadent, mac & cheesy breakfast in bed.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Italian parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a small oven-proof dish (just large enough to comfortably hold 4 cracked eggs in an even layer) with cooking spray.
To make white sauce, melt butter in small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth, thick paste forms. Whisk in milk and cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside and keep warm.
Pour half of the white sauce into the baking dish, then top with half the cheddar cheese. Carefully crack each egg into the dish. Cover the eggs completely with the remaining white sauce, then top with the remaining cheese. Dust the top with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until cheese is melted, egg whites are fully cooked, and yolks are still soft. Cook eggs a little longer if you’d like the yolks to be cooked through, or cook under the broiler for the last minute or so for a browned crust. Garnish eggs with parsley and serve hot with buttered toast, if you like.
Makes 2 servings.