This dish goes by a whole bunch of names, all cute and illustrative of the dish itself — Toad-in-a-Hole, Bunny in a Nest, Egg in a Basket, One-Eyed Jack, Bull’s-Eye Eggs, Rocky Mountain Eggs, Elephant Eye, Nested Eggs, and Sunshine Eggs. In my family we called the dish Toad-in-a-Hole, but personally I prefer Gas House Eggs, which (for reasons I cannot explain) conjures up images of a mist-shrouded, turn-of-the-century Chicago where a longshoreman or journeyman mason would hunker down in a gas-lit eatery to a hearty breakfast of eggs and griddled bread and thick-cut bacon. In my (admittedly limited) research (hell, I just Wiki’d it) I couldn’t discover the reason for the moniker, so I think my imagined back-story is as good as any.
I loved this dish as a kid and now that I’m a parent of (count ‘em) two kids, I love to make it and eat it even more. It’s pretty simple, but there are a couple of tricks to making it well.
I love to use marble rye for its flavor and its visual interest and the nice crunch it develops when griddled in butter. The loaf I bought had half-inch slices, although generally I prefer a thicker-cut bread. When you use an inch-thick slice the egg will take a little longer to cook, which is preferable if you like a runny yolk (which I do). Ergo, the thicker the bread the smaller the hole you should cut. For this thinner bread I used an old-fashioned glass (as in the cocktail) with a rim three-and-a-half inches across. For thicker bread I recommend a hole about two-and-a-half inches in diameter, so choose a smaller glass.
To make the hole gently press the glass rim-side-down into the bread until it cuts through the bread. Be careful not to tear the bread. After you make the cut carefully remove the bread circle from the glass. You can toast it separately and serve it as part of your breakfast.
When prepping the eggs I crack them and put them separately into small dishes or ramekins; this reduces the likelihood of the yolks breaking before you get them into the bread hole.
For a final (non-traditional) touch I sprinkle a tiny bit of thinly shredded cheese on the flipped side. This adds a little extra flavor, and hell, I’ll add cheese to just about anything!
I had cooked a little Neuske’s applewood-smoked bacon for this breakfast so I used a bit of the rendered bacon fat to cook the Gas House Eggs. I heated my skillet up over medium heat and added a tablespoon of bacon fat and a tablespoon of softened butter. When the butter melted I added two slices of the cut-out marble rye and crisped the first side for about one minute. With a spatula I flipped the bread and carefully slid the eggs from the little dishes into the circles. I then seasoned the eggs (and bread) with a bit of fleur de sel and cracked black pepper.
I cooked the eggs for another minute and then gingerly flipped it again. I sprinkled a little grated cheese over the egg and bread and cooked it for another 45 seconds or so. I removed the eggs from the pan and put them on plates. In the same pan I toasted the cut-out circles in a little butter until slightly crunchy. On the toasted cutouts I schmeared some cream cheese and a delicious mixed berry jam.
To complete my breakfast I added some fresh-cut strawberries to the Gas House Eggs, the applewood-smoked bacon, and the cream cheese & jam toast. I had my usual cup of unsweetened steaming-hot Oolong tea to wash it down, and Regina and Bennet and I sat down to a fantastic brekkie.