Old-fashioned Breakfast Eggs Mornay

Eggs on Mornay sauce (2) There’s nothing wrong with old- fashioned, and eggs Mornay certainly are that. They may seem extravagant for a home-cooked Sunday breakfast, but they are neither hard nor time-consuming to make. A Mornay sauce is a Béchamel sauce with cheese, and a Béchamel sauce is a white sauce made with a roux of flour and milk. It probably was a restaurant invention in France in the nineteenth century. Eggs Mornay is a dish one finds in the cookbooks of famous French chef Auguste Escoffier, who adds a light sprinkle of bread crumbs on top and a slight glaze of butter under the broiler. This recipe is simplified a bit but is surely fun to do and of course it’s delicious too.
For the Mornay sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups hot whole milk
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 ounces)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
For the bread and eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for greasing casserole
Four 5 x 3-inch slices white Italian or French country bread, crusts removed
4 large eggs
Paprika to taste
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Prepare the Mornay sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to form a roux, cooking for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the milk a little at a time until it is all blended. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper and the nutmeg. Return to the heat and cook, stirring almost constantly, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the cheese and cayenne and stir until it has melted and is smooth.
3. To prepare the bread and eggs, in a large skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat and, once it stops bubbling but before it turns brown, cook 2 slices of the bread on both sides until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pieces of bread to a lightly buttered medium baking casserole that will hold all 4 bread slices snugly. Cook the remaining 2 pieces of bread.
4. Bring a shallow saucepan of water to a boil, then start stirring in one direction to create a whirlpool. In rapid succession, crack the eggs and carefully and gently slip them into the swirling water. Once they are all in, give the water a gentle swirl with a wooden spoon and let cook until the whites, but not the yolks, solidify, about 2 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, let drain a bit on paper towels, then place 1 egg on each slice of bread. Cover the eggs and bread with some spoonfuls of the Mornay sauce and sprinkle with paprika and the Parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler until bubbling and dappled golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove and garnish with chives. Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings

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