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Bull’s-Eye

July 2, 2009

How do you learn how to perfect a dish?  You cook it over and over and over again, and then you cook it some more.  This is what cooking school is about.  By the time you have chopped onion number 1,000 your body knows how to do it without thinking, and can do it with your eyes closed.

For the home cook, this kind of repetition is hard to come by without getting a lot of grief from your loved ones and neighbors.  That is, unless you have a small child to cook for.

When Young Master Fussy finds something he loves, he wants it again and again.  Yes, he tries new things, and I make certain he gets a varied diet that includes duck, heirloom potatoes, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray, etc.

But through his continued request, I have become an expert in the preparation of the Bulls-Eye.

At least that’s what my family called it when I was a kid.  I have heard it called egg-in-a-nest, toad-in-the-hole, egg-with-a-hat, and the variations are endless.  I am sure your family has its own name for the dish, which hopefully you’ll share with everyone.  But the kiddo asks for “egg-in-the-hole-in-the-bread.”  He’s a pretty straight shooter.

Here is what it involves:

Bread.  You need something that will adequately soak up the butter in the pan.  A nice soft supermarket bread works best.  I prefer Arnold’s 100% whole wheat bread (one of the few without HFCS).  It helps me to pretend this is a healthy dish for kids.

A hole cutter.  I searched around in our kitchen for something that was just the right size.  Eventually I found a teacup whose bottom was a circle that measured 1-7/8 inches at the diameter.  It is perfect.  Not too big and not too small.

An egg.  It should be large.  Not extra large.  Or jumbo.  Just large.  And it would be nice if you could buy happy eggs.  I know they are a little more expensive, and that chickens are a whole separate species.  But personally I prefer a little less cruelty with my breakfast.

Butter.  It should be salted.  And if you are fat- or calorie-conscious, just close your eyes and cut a piece two times bigger than you think is necessary.

Equipment.  I use a well-seasoned 8-inch cast-iron skillet and a thin metal spatula.  The specific timing will vary depending upon your cookware and stovetop.

Here is what I do:

1)    Meticulously find the center of the slice of bread, so that the bulls-eye is perfectly symmetrical.
2)    Melt 5 teaspoons of butter in the skillet on medium-high heat.
3)    Put the bread and the hat in the butter, and crack the egg into the hole.
4)    Watch the egg white carefully.  When the cooked white rises to halfway up the slice of bread, it’s time to flip.
5)    Very carefully, scraping the bottom of the pan with a thin spatula, get underneath the egg and flip.
6)    Turn off the pan, and set a timer for one minute.
7)    When the timer is done, so is the egg.

This method consistently does two things in order of importance.  It guarantees a runny yolk and golden grilled buttery bread to surround it.

If you don’t like runny yolks or are a bit put off by not-completely-set whites, this is not for you.  It’s also not for you if you would like to follow any of our government’s guidelines for food safety.  They eschew runny yolks.

But this dish is all about the runny yolk.  Actually, the first thing my son does is pokes the yolk with his fork.  It’s the acid test of whether or not Daddy effed up the eggs.

Then the hat, the grilled center circle of bread, gets dipped in the yolk.  Afterward pieces of the grilled bread get cut off and dipped into the yolk.  And when the bulk of bread is gone, the remnants of the yolk get cut up into quarters and eaten.

I watch with joy, and only a modest amount of concern that breakfast comes with a side of OCD.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. joni permalink
    July 2, 2009 11:12 am

    when i was a kid it was an egg hat, but to my kids it’s rocky mountain eggs. the hardest part is cracking the egg precisely in the pan so the yolk stays intact and the white forms a perfectly symmetrical circle around it. the hole in the bread is made with the cap from an old vitamin bottle. when the egg in the pan begins to set, the bread and the “hat” are laid on top. then the whole shebang is shuffled back and forth and with a deft flick of the wrist, flipped in the air so it turns and falls back in the pan on the other side. sorry profussor, but i think my version out-OCD’s yours this time!!! love, robert’s mommy.

  2. ttsf permalink
    July 2, 2009 12:51 pm

    my dad always called it a one-eyed sandwich, and it involved an extra ingredient: bacon. fry some in the pan and put it aside. then, use the bacon grease to fry the bread and cook the egg. lay strips of bacon (two strips, cut in half) on the bread, to form a frame around the egg.

    so decadent. so delicious.

  3. brownie permalink
    July 2, 2009 1:00 pm

    Holy shoot! HFCS? In my bread? I’ll have to check this when I get home.

    It is the Devil’s sweetener.

  4. BenP permalink
    July 6, 2009 10:12 pm

    Hmm, I tried this for my son & I this weekend and I loved mine, but he only ate his buttery hat. Maybe it’s because I had to break & overcook his yolk since he’s only 15 mos.

  5. July 6, 2009 10:47 pm

    We called it “eggie in a frame”. I actually own a cookie cutter that I purchased expressly for the purpose of cutting holes in the bread.

  6. July 7, 2009 12:48 pm

    on a related note, my British aunt always cooked up “soldiers” for my cousins. simple really. soft boiled egg + toast cut into strips for dunking into the yolk.

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