Ok, people. This is it. The last egg dish you’ll ever need. These are the eggs that saved Christmas , the eggs that impressed the mother-in-law, the eggs that get everyone out of bed on Saturday morning, the eggs that could broker a Mid-East peace agreement. When extending brunch invitations, friends in-the-know invariably ask if I’m “making THE eggs?”
Apparently originating in the Saddle River, NJ, kitchen of Mrs. William T. Knight, III, at some point in the ’60s (?), this easy dish of hard-cooked eggs draped in a rich Sauce Mornay (culinary French for “cheese sauce”) is the de rigeur centerpiece of any major holiday breakfast a la Family J. Of which there weren’t many, which is a good thing. This is a dish of lethal proportions. But so, so good.
Don’t be tempted to add more cheese to the sauce. Having succumbed to such greedy impulses in the past I can say with authority that doing so will cause the sauce to break in the oven and you’ll end up with separated slicks of oil on top of your eggs. Ick. And, in any event, if you’re using a nice aged Gruyère (and, really given the caloric impact here, you should) you don’t need that much. The cheese’s nutty, pungent flavor is quite pronouncedly delicious when the sauce is made according to the proper proportions.
You can use the other half of that chunk of Gruyère to make gougères for a suitably swingin’ cocktail hour… which you should pretty much be ready for by the time you’ve finished brunch.
lightly adapted from Forum Feasts
Yield: 6 servings
8 hard cooked eggs, halved
4 tbs butter
4 tbs flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh ground black or white pepper
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 c grated Gruyère cheese
1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Arrange eggs, cut side down, in a buttered baking dish that will hold them snugly in a single layer. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes till evenly bubbly and fragrant. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup till quite warm. Whisk warmed milk into flour mixture, mixing vigorously to prevent lumps. Add cream and seasonings. Cook till thickened, about 3-4 min. Reduce heat to low and stir in Gruyère and half of the Parmesan cheese. Once cheese is melted and sauce is smooth, pour over eggs arranged in baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake till heated through and lightly browned, about 30 min.
Notes & Variations
My copy of Forum Feasts was my Grandma Neecie’s, and has lost its front cover and a few pages between here and there, so I’m not sure what edition it is. You can, however, track down more recent vintages here.