It was a great tradition. For several years before we moved to France from Toronto, we got together with friends for a champagne breakfast on a Sunday in July, while glued to a large-screen TV.
Why? Because we were celebrating “the ride into Paris” — watching the final day of the Tour de France, when all the riders head into the French capital and conclude the Tour with a wild race. And because of the six-hour time difference, the afternoon in Paris was breakfast time in Toronto.
Typically, we arranged the breakfast as something of a potluck meal, and our contribution was Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps, a dish that I learned from my copy of The Gourmet Cookbook, More than 1,000 Recipes, Over 60 years in the Making (highly recommended, by the way).
The dish included thin slices of ham, pushed down into the cups of a muffin tin; into each cup was spooned a mixture of sliced mushrooms and shallots that had been cooked down and mixed with crême fraîche and fresh tarragon leaves; and into each cup was placed a raw egg. The tin was then baked in a hot oven (200 Celsius, 400 Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes to set the eggs and make the ham slices crispy.
To serve, you simply loosen around the edges, and then carefully lift out the ham “cup” with its baked-egg centre. Delicious!
Recently, I was reflecting on the status of some nice smoked salmon in our refrigerator (status: not yet eaten). That’s when I thought about using the smoked fish instead of ham slices to make the egg cups. So this morning I tried the experiment, and I think it turned out rather well. Here’s how I made this new breakfast treat:
First I buttered the insides of two small ramekins, and tucked thin slices of good smoked salmon down into them. Then I stirred some dried dill (fresh dill wasn’t available) into a small amount of crême fraîche, and placed a spoonful or two into each ramekin. I topped each of those with a raw egg, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, and added a few thin slivers of salmon that were left over from carving up the main slices of fish.
Then it went off into the hot oven (200 C, 400 F) for the full 15 minutes. When the eggs were set, I ran a knife around the edge of each ramekin, and gently lifted out the salmon-and-egg morsels with two tablespoons. Topped with a fresh sprig of thyme (which we grow in a pot on the front steps), breakfast looked like this:
Verdict No. 1: Delicious, although just a touch salty. Next time I won’t use any extra salt, because the smoked salmon is salty enough.
Verdict No. 2: Sorry that I didn’t have a fresh brioche or croissant available, to deal with the runny yolk. Oh well — to make up for that, my wife Jan and I later went over to Daglan’s tea room, which opened for the season this very morning. I had a nice Earl Grey tea and a couple of small croissants. Yummy.
Final note: Oh yes, and it’s a beautiful day. No rain, for a change. Beautiful blue sky with puffy clouds. Yay!