Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Shirred Eggs Supreme – Pizza Eggs

From the moment I learned to read I have always been a voracious bookworm. Even at a very young age I would read any and every printed page I could lay my eyes on. My parents did not maintain much of a book collection back then so in between reading the books borrowed from my weekly visits to the local library I found myself poring over the newspaper, the Reader’s Digest, and my mother’s cookbooks. Oh, and then there was the circa 1950s sex manual I found in my parent’s bedroom that, although I didn’t quite understand at that tender age, I somehow sensed had to be read surreptitiously; which I did, cover to cover.

During my pre-teens cookbooks were my second favorite reading material, after science fiction stories. When I discovered (by reading, of course) that the side panel of the box of rice and the back of the package of egg noodles offered cookbooks that would be sent to me for free or maybe for a quarter to cover postage and handling, I began requesting them from every available resource. I combed the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and read the fine print on every label of every box, bottle and package I found and ordered all the cookbooks offered. After exhausting those resources, I would accompanied my mother to the grocery store to scan the shelves, reviewing packages of products she normally didn’t buy, and write down the information to request additional cookbooks.

The cookbooks arrived in droves. Almost daily the mailbox would surprise me with “The Joys of Jell-O” cookbook or the “The Best of Bisquick” or Hellman’s “Too Good to be Leftovers Cookbook”. To this day I still have a large box of these little cookbooks and I go through them from time to time with great fondness.

One of my favorites is the “Polly-O Recipe Book – Cooking with Cheese” published in 1968 by the popular Brooklyn manufacturer of mozzarella, ricotta, and other fresh dairy products. This collection of mainly Italian recipes is peppered throughout with the smiling image of the Polly-O mascot; a cartoon parrot sporting a towering chef’s toque while charging forward carrying either a giant fork, spoon, whisk or other kitchen implement as if he were going to ram down a door with it.

Many of the recipes are illustrated with what from today’s perspective appear to be vintage color photographs. Just thumbing through it now brings back mouthwatering memories.... simple spaghetti with ricotta, manicotti made from scratch, mozzarella in carrozza (an Italian version of grilled cheese, but infinitely better), stuffed calamari, cassata alla Siciliana (Sicilian Cream Cake), and many more.

One particular recipe stands out for me because I have been making it regularly for decades with only minor embellishments. It doesn’t have one of those snappy Italian names that roll impressively off the tongue but it is a good tasty reliable dish that can be thrown together quickly with kitchen staples. Polly-O calls it Shirred Eggs Supreme but I have renamed it Pizza Eggs, which is much more descriptive.

Imagine eggs baked in a flavorful marinara sauce over a hidden bed of meltingly creamy mozzarella cheese, all topped with parmesan cheese and herbs. I often make Pizza Eggs for weekend breakfasts or sometimes even a simple supper.

As I write this, I find myself wondering what kind of free cookbooks I would find offered by today’s food manufacturers. A quick survey of my cupboard and refrigerator reveals, sadly, not a single one. Many of the packages offer a recipe or two but then direct me to their website for additional recipes.

It looks like the days of those wonderful little jewels of cookbooks are gone, so now I will treasure my collection even more. To honor Polly-O, and all those other food manufacturers who published these cookbooks that capture a moment of culinary history in time, I offer you….

Pizza Eggs
Adapted from a Polly-O recipe circa 1968
Ingredients for a one-egg serving; increase as necessary

½ teaspoon butter, softened
4 tablespoons of your favorite marinara sauce (homemade or jarred)
1 slice of mozzarella cheese, about 1 1/2 inches square and ¼ inch thick
1 extra large egg
½ teaspoon grated parmesan cheese
a sprinkling of Italian herbs
pinch of garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

If making a one-egg serving, use an 8 ounce custard cup. For a 2 egg serving, double the ingredients and use an individual oval gratin dish.

Butter the dish with the softened butter. Place 2 tablespoons of the marinara sauce in it. Press the slice of cheese down into the sauce, making a shallow indentation for the egg.. Drop the egg on top of the cheese. Spoon the remaining 2 tablespoons of sauce around the egg, covering only the white. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, Italian herbs, and garlic powder.

Bake in preheated oven about 15 - 20 minutes, until the white is set but the yolk is still soft. Serve immediately with good toasted bread.

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Pizza Eggs!! I am going to try this recipe. :)