I wish I could tell you that I had good reasons for sharing this recipe today, earnest ones. If I were a different sort of writer, I might dig deep into my past and crank out a few graphs about my late German grandfather, who ate a soft-boiled egg for breakfast every morning for as long as my mother remembers. (Also, brisket for dinner.) Maybe I’d tell you about the period of 2004 when I did the same, pining for the perfect crouton, perhaps buttered toast fingers raised to a previously unfathomable level of deliciousness, but didn’t get to it until this week.
And while each story would be in some ways true, none are the actual truth, which is that we’re talking about soft-boiled eggs today because omg I found the cutest set of egg cups, egg cups with chickens! and I had to buy them. Yeah, shopping. I told you the story would be better left to more artful scribe. To buy them, however, I’d have to use them, and to use them, it was time to consider the crouton, and not just any crouton but the very most intensely delicious crouton I could dream up. There’s an ample amount of melted butter and a slip of Dijon mustard, there’s Gruyère and a tiny bit of Romano cheese, whose kicky/nutty saltiness has me fixated lately. There are herbs, too, and this whole mixture is literally caked onto fingers of sourdough bread, then roasted in the oven until bronzed, fragrant and tormenting.
Nevertheless, I hope you can forgive this extended, obsessive breakfast kick I’m on. It’s what I do when the weather is warm and I crave lighter meals but spring produce is yet to be seen. Plus, as we all know, eggs are hardly just breakfast food and these croutons needn’t be limited to breakfast. Cut into cubes, they could turn the saddest bag of freakishly ever-fresh salad greens into something you’d eagerly anticipate (though, for this I’d probably swap smooth Dijon for coarse and add a press garlic clove as well). And when those little green spears do emerge from the earth, I’d make this ribboned salad, with a couple of these on the side. They also make excellent rewards for kitchen help, should you keep your own heap underfoot.
Egg cups: I found them here.
One year ago: Oat and Maple Syrup Scones
Two years ago: Bakewell Tart and Romesco Potatoes
Three years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake and Strawberry Coulis and Beef Empanadas
Four years ago: Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake and Chicken with Almonds and Green Olives
Five years ago: Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Red Peppers and Risotto al Barolo
Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toast Soldiers
I include the basic, simple soft-boiled egg instructions that always work for me. However, if you want a very cool read on how to obsessively ensure that your eggs are perfect every single time, well, you’ve got to read this.
16 sourdough toast fingers (mine were from 1/2-inch thick slices, cut into 1/2-inch batons)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated gruyère cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons finely grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
4 large eggs
Make croutons: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place bread cubes in shallow, wide bowl. Whisk together butter and Dijon, then pour over bread fingers. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, both types of cheese, parsley and thyme, if using. Toss to coat. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Scatter bread on sheet. Bake croutons until crisp and golden, turning, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook eggs: Bring a medium pot of water to a steady boil. Add eggs and cook them for exactly six minutes, maintaining the heat at a simmer, then drain and rinse them briefly in cold water.
Holding the egg vertically, pointier side down, with a towel or paper towel to protect you from its heat, tap a knife around the “neck,” about half an inch below the top so that you can remove a little “lid” area. Place the egg in a small dish, opened side up, and serve with a small spoon and toast soldiers.
Don’t have adorable chicken or other tiny egg cups and spoons? With a little patience, you can peel the soft-boiled eggs as you would a hard-boiled one. It’s tricky, because they are liquid in the center, but doable. For this method, arrange four of your croutons on a small plate. Place the peeled egg over the croutons and smash it lightly, delightfully (if you don’t find this to be really fun, I am not sure we can be friends) with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and eat with a fork and knife.