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Betty Grable Eggs

Betty Grable Eggs

The old "egg in a hole". It's eggs and toast. It's an age-old meal that takes little to no skill to prepare. Yet it's quick, it's filling, and it hits some food groups. It's a good stand-by in a pinch. because it's quick and simple. 

When it comes to the "egg in a hole", one quote comes to mind.

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated", this was said by Confucious. 

He was likely not talking about a breakfast, but who knows. And I hate to say it, but humans tend to complicate simple things. The "egg in a hole" is the perfect example. Here is a simple piece of bread, with the middle cut out, thrown into a buttered pan and fried lightly. Then an egg is cracked into this hole in the middle of the bread and fried to serve. Top it with it's removed middle, lightly toasted and you are in business. It's a dish that takes minimal ingredients (maybe a little salt and pepper in addition to an egg and bread).

According to ExtraCrispy.com, the "Egg In A Hole" has over 66 different names associated with it; And honestly, most of them make metaphoric sense. Some of these names include "egg in bread" (the obvious), "egg in a hat", "egg in a basket", "Glasgow eggs", "toad in a hole", and my personal favorite, "Betty Grable eggs". 

I'd like to think that the origin of  "Betty Grable Eggs" came from Betty herself. I picture a lifestyle feature in McCalls and Betty making the "egg in a nest" for breakfast in a full spread featuring her Hollywood kitchen. The truth is, she did know how to make it, but it wasn't because it was her specialty. It was all for the craft of acting. It comes from a scene in the 1941 file, "Moon Over Miami," where Betty Grabel makes, what she refers as "gashouse eggs" in reference to the name of the restaurant featured in the egg frying scene.

In actuality, the "egg with a hat", is the first and real name of the dish. It made its first appearance in the 1890's where it can be found in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Farmer.

The original recipe calls for a two-and-a-half-inch cookie cutter to remove the center of a slice of bread, which later is served upon the cooked egg, becoming its hat. 

Like many of Farmer's recipes, there is no intro for this "egg in a hat,"  and less than 100 words are written about its ingredients and preparation. The beauty of Fannie Farmer is that she expects a level of aptitude from those who follow her cookbook. Nonetheless, the "recipe" has been passed down through each of the cookbooks thirteen print editions. 

Whatever you call it, be it an egg in a hole, toad or basket, it's a delicious dish that lets simplicity shine. Even if we do over-complicate its name.

Egg In A Hole (aka "Betty Grable eggs")

This recipe appears in my cookbook, Breakfast for Dinner.

Serves 4


1 cup/150g streaky bacon

4 cups/80g baby rocket leaves, rinsed and dried

About 16 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil or olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

4 slices sourdough bread

4 eggs

4-5 cm/1 ½-2 inch round cookie cutter (or other shapes, such as a heart)

First, make the salad. Fry the bacon in a pan until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to cool. Reserve the grease in the pan. Once cool, chop the bacon into pieces.

In a large plastic bowl with a lid, combine the rocket, cherry tomatoes, red onion, oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and shake to mix. Top with the chopped bacon. Cut a 4-5cm/1½-2 inch hole from the center of the bread with the cookie cutter.

For the eggs, heat the bacon fat over low heat. Lay the bread down in the hot frying pan. When the side facing down is lightly toasted, about 2 minutes, flip it over and crack the egg into the hole in the middle of the bread.

Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the egg is cooked and mostly firm. Flip again and cook 1 minute more to ensure it's done on both sides. Serve immediately with the salad.


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