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Shirred Egg with Olive Oil, to Warm a Winter Night
In Italy, the beginning of the new year brings not only cooler temperatures but also newly bottled olive oil from the fall harvest. Natalia Ravidà, author of the newly published Seasons of Sicily, remembers her family gathering around a wood-burning stove at their olive oil estate in Menfi, Sicily. While the adults sipped glasses of red wine and dipped toasted bread in the new season’s olive oil, she cooked her first meal: an egg basted in the same fragrant oil.
“My main concern was to make sure the oil would not fry and would retain its aromas,” says Natalia. As the egg cooked, she scooped up olive oil and drizzled it over the yolk. Pampered in this way, the white cooked to tender perfection, while the yolk remained soft and luscious. Her technique is a healthful and delicious variation on shirring, which typically involves baking eggs in cream.
Natalia’s shirred egg is wonderful at breakfast, of course, but I prefer to make it the focus of a simple solo dinner. My favorite way is to slide the cooked egg onto a piece of whole-wheat toast, pouring any remains of the olive oil over it. For a more substantial meal, layer thin slices of prosciutto di Parma or smoked salmon on the toast before adding the egg.
More ideas for meals featuring Natalia’s shirred egg:
- Toss a mixture of sweet and bitter greens (Boston lettuce and radicchio, for example) with diced, crisply cooked pancetta and a Dijon vinaigrette. Top the salad with a shirred egg and croutons.
- Arrange steamed asparagus on toasted brioche or challah bread. Top with a shirred egg and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Combine cut-up winter vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onion and garlic on a baking sheet; season with olive oil, thyme, salt and black pepper. Roast in a 450°F oven until browned and tender. Top a plateful of the vegetables with the shirred egg.
- Fill a portabello mushroom cap with sautéed spinach; bake, covered, at 350°F until the mushroom is tender. Top with a shirred egg, sprinkle with grated Fontina cheese and return to the oven just until the cheese melts.
Good extra virgin olive oil at its freshest is something special, and worth seeking out. To find out whether a bottle contains the new season’s oil or has been sitting on the shelf for a longer period, ask the vendor or check the label; many reputable producers, including Ravidà, indicate the year of production.
Shirred Egg with New Season’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(Uovo in tegamino con olio di oliva fresco)
Makes 1 serving
Extra virgin olive oil (preferably new season)
1 large fresh farm egg
1 pinch sea salt
2 slices fresh bread
Pour the oil in a small skillet and warm over medium-low heat for about 5 seconds. Break the egg into the pan and cook by drizzling warm oil over the egg with a small spoon until the white is cooked through but the yolk is still soft, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat if the oil begins to sizzle.
Season the egg with a pinch of salt and, if you like, top with more olive oil. Serve warm with slices of fresh bread.
Credits: Recipe, used with permission, from Seasons of Sicily, by Natalia Ravidà (New Holland Publishers, 2007); photo by Nigel Noyes
© Toni Lydecker 2007
Toni Lydecker is the author of Serves One: Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own and is currently at work on a Sicilian-style seafood cookbook. To see more of her writing and recipes, visit www.tonilydecker.com.