When I was a little girl, I spent at least one weekend a month at my Grandma Darlene’s house in Springfield, IL, where most of my family is from. Grandma grew up in rural Illinois during the Depression, and because of that she was an incredible cook. All of her dishes were simple, honest and delicious. One of my favorite meals at her house was breakfast. Grandma would whip up sausage patties, English muffins, oatmeal, toast and, on occasion, egg in a frame.
Grandma died when I was 14, and I’ve been trying to recreate her egg in a frame ever since. It’s not as easy as it looks. I received the “Top Chef” cookbook for Christmas last year and I noticed a recipe for an updated egg in a frame that looked promising. After making it a few times, I adjusted it to my liking. This isn’t like my grandma’s egg in a frame, but it’s delicious nonetheless. It’s got the perfect combination of sweet, salty, starchy, eggy goodness.
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla (optional)
4 slices of bread
1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Breakfast meat, cooked
Real maple syrup
Whisk the milk, two of the eggs, salt, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl. You don’t have to include the vanilla, but it does give it a nice, fragrant sweetness. Pour the mixture onto a small cookie sheet or into a shallow baking dish. Cut a circle that’s 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter in the center of two slices of bread. I use a biscuit cutter to do this, but Grandma always used the rim of a drinking glass. Lay all four slices of bread flat in the milk mixture and let them soak for a minute. Flip them over and give them a minute on the other side.
While the bread is soaking, start melting your butter. The key is to use a cooking surface that’s big enough to allow all four slices of bread to lay flat. A griddle or huge skillet would be great for this. I have neither, so I use two smaller skillets and split the butter between them. Melt the butter over medium-high heat until it’s slightly foamy, but not brown. Place the soaked slices of bread flat in the melted butter, cracking the remaining eggs in the center of the two slices with holes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them over and cook until the bread is browned and the egg is firm enough.
The non-egg slices will likely be cooked a minute or two before the egg slices. It’s really important to make sure that the egg is firm enough to flip; if it’s not, it won’t stay neatly in the hole. Slide the spatula underneath the slices with the egg and give them a little shimmy before the first flip. If they don’t look set in their holes, give them another minute. After they’re flipped, they’ll need to cook for 2 to 4 minutes. I like my yolk cooked all the way through, but the egg can also be served a little runny if that’s what you’re into.
Place the non-egg slices on two plates and lay cooked breakfast meat on top of them. I think any kind of salty or spiced meat would work really well. I’ve tried it with corned beef, bacon, soy sausage patties and soy bacon, and all of them have been excellent. Pancetta or ham would probably be tasty, as would smoked sausage. Lay the egg slices on top of the meat. Drizzle the whole thing with syrup and gobble it down.