Baked-egg dishes have become a staple of menus and home kitchens alike. In fact, we appear to have entered a golden age of shakshuka. A simple preparation that is in some ways easier than stovetop recipes, a baked-egg dish is a cook’s ticket to a hearty meal any time of day with minimal effort. Shirred eggs are a much-loved British version of this classic technique. What are shirred eggs? Grab a ramekin and some toast for dipping, because you’re about to make a friend.
Shirred eggs come from the term “shirrer,” another name for a ceramic or porcelain ramekin. There’s a simple formula to traditional shirred eggs: Add a splash of heavy cream to a buttered ramekin, crack in an egg, garnish as desired and bake until the whites are just barely set. That order of operations is merely a suggestion — some recipes call for the cream to be heated to a simmer with aromatics and gently ladled over the egg in the ramekin before baking. Others substitute the cream with tomato sauce or omit it entirely in favor of a bed of ham, shredded potatoes or a circle of toast.
Shirred eggs can be baked directly on an oven rack or partially immersed in a pan of water (called a bain-marie) for the French dish oeufs en cocotte (“eggs in a pot”). They also can be broiled for quicker cooking time and a firmer yolk. However you do it, keep in mind that ramekins will stay hot and continue to cook the eggs slightly for a couple of minutes once they’re removed from the oven. The upside to that is they’ll stay nice and warm on the table while you’re eating.