Our latest recipe contest, Your All-Time Best Creamy Breakfast, had an unexpected benefit—we learned a magic trick to make any morning approximately 100 times better.
And while a magician isn't supposed to reveal her techniques, we'll let it slip just this once: Make sdebrango's contest-winning Creamy Baked Eggs. That's it—that's the whole trick! Promise, it works wonders.
After eating about 15 test batches (in the name of science, of course), we reached out to sdebrango to get the full scoop about how she dreamt up this recipe. Here's what she had to say.
Food52: Hi! (Spoken through a mouthful of creamy baked eggs.) Could you tell us more about the process of developing the recipe? How'd you think of it? How has it changed over time?
sdebrango: This recipe is a variation of my mom's shirred eggs. She kept it really simple: eggs, cream, and cheese. We had this on holidays and special occasions, and I always looked forward to it. When I saw the contest theme, this was the first thing that came to mind—making it my own by adding other ingredients.
I wanted to create a dish where everything could be made and assembled the night before—and that's the case here, except for the eggs, which get added the morning-of. This recipe has changed pretty dramatically over the years, taking on different ingredients and cooking methods. When I first started making it, many moons ago, I used layers of torn or cubed and fried bread, sautéed tomato slices, cheese sauce, and eggs. Everything was done on the stovetop. Now, it all goes in the oven.
Food52: Got it! And what are your favorite ways to riff on the contest-winning version?
sdebrango: I've made this dish, or a variation of it, so many times. I've tried using different vegetables—Brussels sprouts, zucchini, fried potatoes—pancetta instead of bacon, cheese sauce rather than a basic béchamel... Sometimes using buttered toasted garlic bread crumbs on top is nice, along with different cheeses—like Taleggio, for example.
Food52: Okay, so: the important question. Why is this the all-time best creamy breakfast?
sdebrango: Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day—or, rather breakfast food at any time of day, really. This recipe is versatile and makes a great creamy breakfast, or equally delicious lunch or dinner. How can you not love anything made with a cream sauce?
Food52: And how many times have you made this recipe, if you had to guess?
sdebrango: Well, I’ve made this recipe or variations of it hundreds of times in my life!
Food52: What are some of your other favorite recipes on Food52?
sdebrango: That's such a tough question—the list of favorites can go on for days. I make these recipes all the time: Amanda’s Peach Tart, Boulangere’s First Night In Florence Spaghetti, Merrill's Buttercream, Antonia James' Lentil and Sausage Soup For a Cold Winter's Night, Mrs Larkin's scones—Royal Wedding Scones especially—and Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce.
Food52: What's your most splattered, stained, dog-eared cookbook?
sdebrango: Baking With Julia by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan. I have two copies. One is spattered and falling apart, held together with rubber bands. And [I have] a new copy, for when the old one is unusable.
Food52: You’re on a desert island and you can have one dessert. What is it?
sdebrango: Apple pie and ice cream—either vanilla or salted caramel.