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Recipe: Ellen’s Shirred Eggs

By Ellen Green

Spring is here, which means it’s greens season here in Massachusetts. The hardy little guys like spinach, arugula, mizuna, and watercress don’t mind cold feet and a bit of frost–in fact, it makes them even tastier. And luckily for us, they’re good for us and good in everything.

I added this recipe to my repertoire when I first started living on my own–I found it in James Beard’s American Cookery, frowned at the name for a minute, and then made it immediately because it was cheap, easy, and sounded pretty tasty. And once you’ve made it, you’ll be as confused as I was about why this recipe fell by the wayside somewhere over the last century. Good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Uses cheap staples! Takes 20 minutes, start to finish! Easily adapted! What more could you ask for?

My favorite greens for this recipe are spinach and arugula, though any tender cooking greens will work. This is also a great dish to showcase spring onions, fresh herbs, and asparagus, the other early risers around here. And if you can get local eggs, they’ll shine here–the fresher, the better.

To make it a full meal, serve with a salad and toast points–get them together while the eggs are baking and cooling, and you won’t even have to add any prep time.

Ellen’s Shirred Eggs

Serves: 1
Time: 5-10 min active prep, 15-20 min total prep

Equipment: small pot or microwave-safe bowl and plastic wrap, colander, 10-oz ramekins (or similar small, oven-safe dishes), knife and cutting board, oven, microwave/stove/hot plate


  • 2 cups washed spinach, any tough stems removed
  • 2 tsp butter 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp cream or half-and-half
  • 2-3 tbsp grated or crumbled cheese, any kind
  • 1 tsp snipped chives or green onions
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Wilt the spinach:
    Microwave: put the spinach in a microwave-safe bowl with a teaspoon of water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for about a minute, or until the greens are wilted and dark. Transfer to a colander.
    Stovetop: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Dump in the spinach, stir to submerge it, and immediately pour the water and spinach through a colander.

    Run cold water over the spinach until it’s cool enough to handle, then squeeze it dry. Roughly chop it.

  3. Put the butter in the ramekin and bake it until the butter is melted, about 5 minutes. Prep the other ingredients while you wait.
  4. Do this step quickly so you don’t lose too much heat from the ramekin:
    1. Pull the ramekin out of the oven.
    2. Add all the cream, half the spinach, half the cheese, and half the chives
    3. Crack in the eggs
    4. Add the salt and pepper
    5. Add the rest of the spinach, cheese, and chives
    6. Put it back in the oven.
  5. Bake for 12-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set, but not quite cooked through. (It’s pretty variable depending on your oven.) Let it rest on the counter for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
  6. Slide a knife around the edge of the shirred eggs. Invert a plate over the ramekin and then carefully turn the whole plate-ramekin combo over. Eat!

To use up leftovers: leftover cooked veggies, meat, and seafood are great additions. Keep the total amount of greens, cheese, and leftovers to about ⅓ cup so the ramekin doesn’t overflow.

To make a bunch at once: arrange the ramekins on a cookie sheet, and, if possible, get someone else to help with step 3 so it goes quicker. You can also do shirred single eggs in a muffin pan–use muffin cups so you can lift them out when they’re done rather than trying to invert the pan.