Egg-in-a-Hole for You and Your Spawn

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

My wife Adriana and I have been using the Baby-Led Weaning method ever since our daughter Alicia started being interested in food. Given that she has been sitting at the kitchen counter while I cook for practically every day of her life, that interest developed early. Happily, she's almost eight months old now and it's showing no signs of stopping.

The basic gist of Baby-Led Weaning is to simply feed the baby what you're eating yourself*. The positive sides of this approach are extensive. In the long term, your baby develops better gag reflexes (she'll learn that the first time she tries to stick a whole green bean down her throat). There are links to improved hand-eye coordination. Your baby will most likely have a wider palate as she grows up (at eight months, her favorite foods are passionfruit, rotisserie chicken, brie, green beans in vinaigrette, and pizza). In the short term, it means you don't have to sit there and feed your baby bite-by-bite at every meal. You get to enjoy your own food while the baby enjoys hers. And, of course, you don't need a food masher, food processor, blender, whatever.

*Please don't use the method without reading the book first. There are a few risks that you don't want to subject your child to.

The method also has a few side effects. On the negative side, it's messy. Very messy. We take Alicia down to her diaper and use a silicone bib for every meal. Our dog Shabu positions herself directly under Alicia's seat at mealtimes and acts as a living vacuum cleaner. But, on the plus side, because every time I cook I'm cooking for myself and Alicia (and usually Adri, too), meals have become much more healthy and balanced than they were before the baby arrived. (So much fresh fruit in the house! And prunes. Endless prunes.)

The other thing about this method is that once you start, you'll be prone to excessive bouts of cuteness whenever you cook. Teeny-tiny portions of food are about as cute as baby teeth are sharp (that is to say, very), and on weekdays, when I'm home alone with Alicia, she likes it* when I cook matching plates for her and her Pops. This egg and toast dish is probably the cutest thing I've made for her so far. The idea came to me when I spotted a carton of quail eggs at my local Japanese supermarket one afternoon. Perfect for the baby!

*As any full-time dad can tell you, you take your kid to the aquarium or the garden center or the science museum because they're really, really into it. Definitely not because you want to go yourself.

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I mean, just look at it!

It starts like a plain old egg-in-the-hole (or whatever the heck you want to call it). You know that dish where you cut a ring out of the center of a slice of bread, then break an egg into it while frying the bread in butter? What you might have noticed is that the circular cut-out from the center of your bread is a perfectly baby-sized portion of bread. So all you gotta do is cut a smaller circle out of the center of that one, and you've got the makings of a meal for yourself and the little one out of a single slice of toast.

I like to treat my egg-in-the-hole the way I treat my grilled cheese: cooked very gently in plenty of butter on a flat griddle (I'm using my Baking Steel Mini) so that it browns nice and evenly. I start by toasting one side of the bread, then slide it off to the side and add a bit more butter before I flip all three pieces and slide them back in the butter. Next, I crack a chicken egg into the large hole and a quail egg into the smaller hole. Finally, I cover the whole thing with a wok lid and let it cook until the egg is just barely set (If you like it more well-done, you can flip the eggs, bread and all, to cook the top side briefly).

I snipped a few chives from the garden on top, then brought it over to my official taste-test partner.

Sometimes Alicia takes a few dainty licks before moving onto something more exciting. Other times, she'll suck on a single piece of food until every last bit of flavor has been extracted and then de-mouths the remaining carcass like a piece of gum that's lost its flavor. This time, she went straight in and didn't stop until the last bit of bread was gone.

Shabu didn't even get a bite.

With seven more quail eggs left in the carton, I'm already planning her next few meals. Thai-style fried rice with blistered green beans topped with a teeny-tiny crispy fried egg. Baby-sized Niçoise salad. Oh, I wonder if I can make miniature ajitsuke tamago? Alicia and I will find out.

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You can catch a short video of how this is made right here. It may or may not include bonus baby hand.