4 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup poached chicken or lobster chunks, small peeled raw shrimp, cooked spinach, or a few slices of black truffle
Salt and pepper
Small handful chopped chives, tarragon, parsley, or other tender herbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter four 4-ounce custard cups or deep ramekins with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add a splash of the heavy cream to each cup and set aside.
2. Generously season the chicken or other ingredient of your choosing with salt and pepper, then nestle some of it into the bottom of each cup. Crack an egg into each cup. Season each with a little salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Divide the remaining cream between the cups, carefully pouring it over each egg. The cream should pretty much cover the eggs. Season with a little more salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Top each with a knob of the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
3. Set the cups into a deep pan filled halfway with simmering water. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Bake the eggs until the cream is bubbling, the tops have browned, and the eggs are barely set (they should tremble when you jiggle the cups), about 10 minutes. The eggs will continue to cook once they've been removed from the water bath.
4. Remove the cups from the water bath and sprinkle the eggs with chopped herbs. Serve the eggs in their cups with slices of hot buttered toast.
Note: The gentle, even cooking of the eggs in their ramekins in the hot water bath keeps them tender and prevents them from cooking too fast. We make this simple egg and cream dish more or less luxurious depending on the occasion. Sometimes we make it with two eggs, or we'll nestle a couple of spoonfuls of cooked spinach, or some sliced black truffles, or poached shrimp or lobster in the bottom of each ramekin. We also make this dish with pieces of poached chicken. There's something particularly satisfying and ironic about eating the chicken and the egg all in one. Who cares which came first - it's delicious.
Per serving (with chicken): 311 calories, 18 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, trace sugar, 26 grams fat, 255 milligrams cholesterol, 294 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.