The loving kindness of gentle eggs

When they won't drip off the fork, they're ready!

When they won’t drip off the fork, they’re ready!

Years ago, my wife was ill and – as is sometimes the case with sick people – was rejecting food. Too spicy! Too bland! Too crunchy! Too much like – food!

I have a strong feeding instinct and it was being balked. Then, as in a dream, I saw it – a savory egg custard. What sickie would not love such a thing!!?

But – a traditional egg custard would not have the texture I felt she wanted and I felt it needed a little updating.

I soon found myself in the kitchen making what we now call gentle eggs. Our son asked me what I was making that took so much stirring and I said something like “Oh, I’m stirring them a lot, but I’m stirring very gently!” to which he responded, “So – these are “gentle eggs”, then?”.


Gentle eggs they became and gentle eggs they are today. We served these eggs to our children when they were younger and they still love them today. We serve these eggs periodically when one of us is feeling poorly and needs some gentle comfort. And sometimes we serve them just because we crave them.

Their texture is coarser than a custard but far smoother than a scrambled egg. Their flavor is a little sweet and plays beautifully with either a sweet or savory accompaniment. And they are one of the quintessential comfort foods.

Tart them up with a little bit of jamon Serrano, a few orange segments, some fresh herbs, a bit of truffle and a wee bit of grilled baguette and you have a fine meal that works for breakfast. Lunch. Or Dinner!

Or when someone you love is feeling poorly, serve gentle eggs all by themselves in a warm bowl with a fork and perhaps just a pinch of salt.

Gentle Eggs – Ingredients for one substantial serving

  • 3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pinch of coarse salt or to taste
  • 2 Tb milk or half and half


Beat the eggs with the milk. Don’t whip them. Just punish them a little bit.

Punish those eggs just a little and pour them into a buttered ramekin

Punish those eggs just a little and pour them into a buttered ramekin

Use half the butter to butter a ramekin or heatproof bowl that will easily hold the beaten eggs.

Put the ramekin in a sauce pot and fill the pot with water until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekin.

Heat the water until it is just beginning to simmer. You can heat it quickly, but as soon as it begins to near-boil, turn it down to a gentle simmer. Carefully pour the egg-milk mixture into the ramekin. Using a spoon or small spatula, stir the mixture slowly and gently, scraping the sides and bottom. This will keep them from curdling as they set.

Do not give that ramekin a moment’s peace for the next 6-8 minutes. And yes, this is a labor of love. If I’m using a large pot to hold the ramekin(s), I sometimes wear an oven mitt because I am not yet personally heatproof.

Now here’s the thing. Once you’ve poured the eggs into the ramekin, nothing will appear to happen for a few minutes. This is normal. Keep gently stirring and suddenly you’ll notice that the eggs are – not exactly coagulating – but turning into a kind of slightly lumpy custard as their proteins are heated to that magic 160F temperature. Keep stirring and add a pinch of salt.

Tip: How do you know when the eggs are set enough? After you make this dish a few times, you’ll develop a mystical sense for when to take the eggs off the heat, but until that magic moment, scoop out a little piece of the forming custard with a fork – if the eggs sit on the fork when you turn it slightly and don’t drip off – they’re done!! Keep in mind that you don’t want to overcook this dish, so take it off the heat / out of the pot immediately

About 2-4 minutes after you first notice the eggs beginning to set, they will be set enough (see above) at which point remove the ramekin from the pot, add the remainder of the butter to the top of the egg mixture and moosh it in slightly with a fork, scoop the eggs into a small bowl, and serve immediately with garnishes and accompaniments of choice or gloriously alone with perhaps just a sprinkle of coarse salt.

I’ve represented this dish as one ideal for children and sick folks, but – like all wonderful dishes – this is something that almost anybody who eats eggs will love at almost any time of the day. Now go fix some gentle eggs and let us know how you like them!

Or serve them gloriously alone with a sprinkle of salt and perhaps a fresh herb or two

Serve them gloriously alone with a sprinkle of salt and perhaps a fresh herb or two

Or tart them up a bit. . .

Or tart them up a bit. . .