Can I say "BREAKFAST ANYONE???" Wow! I am not a breakfast person - and this had to be the ultimate in breakfast meals. It had everything - it was savory, sweet, satisfying - I could go on and on, and indeed I will! This Sara M. made this dish as part of a Quickfire where Padma woke up all the "cheftestants" and declared, "Make me breakfast!!!" This was a great episode - there's nothing like seeing half-awake, sleep deprived, stressed people try to make breakfast. It only would have been more amusing to watch if they had been hungover - and hey - maybe they were. Sara decided to go with a classic, "Eggs in the Hole." The dish Eggs in a Hole is basically just eggs cooked in some kind of bread that had a hole cut out of them. But these Eggs in a Hole went to a whole new level ... Pun intended! These Eggs in a Hole are made in French Toast made with multigrain bread with prosciutto between the slices of French Toast, but under the egg, as a tasty savory surprise.
The Grapefruit Segments: The accompaniment to the eggs were segmented grapefruit pieces. I did that first to get that out of the way.
Eating segmented grapefruit is great because you don't have to deal with any of the peel, white pith, and membrane, but it is a tedious process. In the end though it was worth it, because the slightly tart and yet refreshing citrusy flavor was such an amazing foil to the sweet, savory, and richness of the Eggs in the Hole. Peeling off all the peel and pith first, and then using a pointy sharp paring knife makes this job a bit easier. The French Toast: This recipe is so simple that to make it special, you really just need great ingredients. I, of course, started with great eggs. These were relatively fresh (as fresh as you can get in a supermarket) and were organic.
You can tell the eggs are good just by looking at the intense yellow color of the yolk and the way the yolk held up in firm round mounds against the whites.
I then added the rest of the ingredients for the French Toast. Then I got out my slices of multi-grain bread. I didn't buy any "special" bread - just multi-grain bread that comes in the plastic bag from a brand like Pepperidge Farm that you can find in any supermarket.
To make the hole in the bread, I just used a juice glass (since I didn't have a round cookie or biscuit cutter). It worked just fine.
I then place the bread a couple of slices at a time in the egg, milk, and cinnamon French Toast batter. Next, I put the butter in the cast iron skillet. This has to be my favorite part of any frying process - frying with butter. The smell is truly intoxicating - and by the way, is an awesome scent to wake up to. This breakfast was the kinds of breakfast that "scent memories" are made from.
Two slices at a time, I put the soaked bread slices in the skillet.
Putting the Egg in the Hole: Now is when a decision had to be made - do I want my egg in the hole to be sunny side up or over easy? I did them both ways. First I did them over easy, which meant putting the egg in one of the holes before flipping the French Toast.
To make the Egg in a Hole sunny side up, you flip the French Toast before you put the egg in the hole. To make the Egg in a Hole sunny side up (the way it appears in the photo of the Top Chef Cookbook), you first have to flip the French Toast and then gently put your egg in the hole, making sure to keep the yolk intact.
What Makes the Eggs in the Hole Special - the Prosciutto and the Maple Syrup: While the French Toast and the egg are cooking (and notice the crispy brown wonderfulness that the edges of the bread take on - I can only attribute that to the miracle we call butter), I set out my slices of prosciutto. Truth be told, I would have loved to have gotten freshly sliced Prosciutto di Parma, but that wasn't an option at the supermarket I went to. Honestly, using packaged prosciutto turned out just fine, and actually worked very well with respect to arranging them on the slices of French Toast.
I also heated up the maple syrup while all this was going on. I used real maple syrup, not some "pancake topping," and that really made a difference. The maple syrup was a perfect complement to the saltiness of the prosciutto. Also, I really recommend taking the time to heat the syrup. It helps to keep the breakfast hot when you are serving it, and the mapley flavor of is enhanced when the syrup is hot.
Assembling the Eggs in a Hole: Basically all you have to do to complete the breakfast is take the piece of French Toast without the egg and put it on the plate. Then carefully place the slices of prosciutto on top so that you'll be sure to get a bit of cured Italian ham goodness in every bite. Then put the French Toast with the egg in it on top. Pour some hot maple syrup over it and garnish with the grapefruit segments.
Here you see what the Egg in a Hole looks like done over easy.
And here you see what it looks like sunny side up (which was my preferred way).
My Suggestions To Make This Already Great Dish Even Better: I am at a loss here. I have nothing to add. This was a sublime dish. The recipe is not explicit about when to put the egg in depending on if you want it over easy or sunny side up, but other than that it is a perfect dish and recipe.
Final Word On this Dish: Maybe breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. I know I could eat this dish anytime day or night. It's completely balanced and healthy, and was super-easy to make!
BONUS MATERIAL!!!!: The Derivation of "French Toast": The reason that we call French Toast, French Toast, is because the dish originated in Europe, and many believe in France. Basically it was a way to salvage stale bread - and indeed, in France - the world ruler (in my view) of perfect fresh bread - with crispy light crusts and succulent insides, the bread is considered stale even if just a day old. (At least artisanal bread is - sadly, the concept of industrial-produced bread sold in plastic sacks has arrived in French "supermarchets" as well.)
The French actually call it "Pain Perdu" which literally means "lost bread" or a better translation would be "wasted bread." Anyway, the French and other Europeans would salvage stale bread by soaking it bread and eggs , frying it and serving it with preserves or powdered sugar.
It seems that the precise origins of the recipe are unknown, but I am pretty confident that the addition of maple syrup was strictly a North American thing, in light of the French-Canadians and New Englanders' love of maple syrup.