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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

All About Egg Coddlers

Every once in a while I gain possession of some kitchen gadget or device that has fallen out of favor. Often despite my best intentions it just ends up on yet another shelf, unused, unloved. But aware of the risk, when my mother offered me her set of egg coddlers, I couldn't resist. They are so charming to look at that even if you swore off eggs you might want to put large blossoms in them for decorating a table or you could use them for serving jam or marmalade. They can also be used for heating up baby food.

Egg coddlers allow you to cook an egg to the consistency you like, and serve it up in a convenient and attractive manner. Personally I love the tecture of poached eggs, but there is no way to really get them dry enough once they emerge from their bath. I know Martha Stewart places them on the heels of bread and trims them just so, but they still seem drippy to me. I also like soft boiled eggs, but eating them out of the shell is a mess. I know they look cute in egg cups, but they really aren't that easy to crack the lids off and eat.

But beyond the actual cooking, egg coddlers are also wonderful for developing endless egg variations. For example, when I was growing up my mother occasionally made a most divine egg dish that consisted of eggs cooked in butter with a splash of dry sherry and a sprinkling of cheese melted on top, usually cheddar. What made this rather odd combination of sherry, eggs and cheese so yummy or where the recipe even came from remains a mystery but trust me, it's delicious. With an egg coddler I can easily duplicate the taste.

If you have egg coddlers, dust them off and give them a try and if you don't keep your eyes open at flea markets and thrift shops, they're just the kind of thing you find there. Finally you can buy new ones at Sur La Table or do a search for them on eBay where the vintage Royal Worcester ones I have routinely sell for between five and ten dollars.

The basic instructions for using them are:
Butter the inside of the cup, drop in the egg, top with salt and pepper then screw on the top, place in a pot of boiling water with the water coming up to the edge of the metal rim. Do not completely submerge them. Boil from anywhere between 5-8 minutes depending upon how you like your eggs. I find six minutes is perfect. For a traditional "three minute egg" cook for five minutes in the coddler. The nice thing is you can open it up and if it's not done, you can screw the lid on again an pop it back in the water again.

I've also been told you can beat the eggs and cook them in the coddler, or even mix them with sugar and cream to make individual custards, but I have never tried it.

Here are my top suggestions for coddled eggs:

*Eggs a la Mama
Top egg with 1/4 teaspoon of dry sherry and a sprinkling of cheese, cheddar or Swiss do nicely

*Oeuf aux Fine Herbes
Add one teaspoon of fresh finely minced parsley or combination of parsley and chive, scallion or chervil

*Farmhouse Egg
Top egg with crumbled bits of bacon, fresh chopped onion, mushroom and cheese

*Ham and Egg
Cut a small thin slice of ham into half-inch strips and line the cup with these. Add the egg on top of the ham

*Mustard Cream Egg
Top egg with a 1/2 teaspoon of cream, a 1/4 teaspoon stone-ground mustard, and a 1/4 teaspoon Parmesan

*Salsa Egg
Top egg with a teaspoon or so of salsa

*Smoked Salmon Egg
Top egg with bits of chopped smoked salmon and a lump of cream cheese.