Coddling is a very gentle cooking method that uses simmering water to insulate food from the direct heat of the stove. This method allows you to cook food, especially eggs, slowly and evenly, yielding eggs that have been cooked just enough so they are no longer raw but still extremely soft. Egg coddlers, a type of lidded glass or porcelain dish, are made especially for this technique, but you can also coddle eggs in standard ramekins. If you’d prefer to turn the eggs out onto the toast rather than serving them in their ramekins, omit the cream and spray the coddler or ramekin with nonstick cooking spray.
Coddled Eggs with Chives and Cream
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1 tsp. minced cooked ham (optional)
1 1/2 Tbs. minced fresh spinach leaves
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp. finely snipped fresh chives
2 slices bread, toasted and buttered, for serving
Pour water to a depth of 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) into a wide, deep saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, place 1 Tbs. of cream in the base of each of 2 covered egg coddlers or standard 4– to 5–fl. oz. (125- to 160-ml) ramekins and swirl the cream to coat about halfway up the inside walls. Add half each of the ham, if using, and the spinach to each coddler. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt and pepper into each one. Carefully break an egg into each coddler, being careful not to break the yolk. Cover the coddlers with their tops (or with small squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil if using ramekins).
Carefully place the coddlers in the saucepan of boiling water. Reduce the heat so that the water simmers briskly and cover the saucepan. Simmer for 6 minutes, then use an oven mitt to transfer the coddlers to individual plates.
Remove the lids from the coddlers, season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with the chives. Serve at once with warm, buttered toast. Serves 2.
Note: If using standard ramekins to coddle eggs, make sure the white is set and the yolk still jiggles before serving. Coddled eggs may be only partially cooked, which means they run a risk of being infected with salmonella or other bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. This risk is of most concern to small children, older people, and anyone who has a compromised immune system.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Breakfast, by Brigit L. Binns