You know what this recipe tastes like? A vegetarian version of biscuits and sausage gravy. You get the thick, rich gravy and the taste of butter and onions, but it just doesn’t have any sausage in it. And, you know what? I didn’t even miss the sausage. It was so flavorful and creamy, and over sliced eggs and toast, it’s just as filling, I promise! I guess technically, since there’s no meat and no drippings, it’s probably more appropriate to call it a “white sauce” rather than a gravy. But, it acted and tasted like a gravy to me, so there you have it! Gravy it is.
This meal was a quintessential example of “old food” to me. I read a lot – classic literature, accounts of life in the olden days, diaries, etc. And, in all of these literary samples, at one point or another, the writer talks about eating some kind of eggs on toast. I mean, it’s always been a cheap meal; it’s filling; it covers most of the food groups; you can add any flavor to it; it’s simple yet comforting. It makes sense. So, I kind of felt delightfully old-fashioned making and eating toast with sliced eggs and gravy cream sauce for dinner. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed!
So, what are we cooking? Lyonnaise eggs from New York Evening Telegram Cook Book published in 1908. Let’s go into the kitchen and make some history!
Here are our ingredients: Eggs, salted butter, onion, parsley, flour, milk, salt, and pepper.
Step 1: Hard-boil the eggs. Put a pot of water on the stove over high heat, and once it comes to a boil, gently add the eggs with a spoon. Boil the eggs for fifteen minutes, then take them off the heat and immediately shock them in ice water, or run them under cold water until they’re cool enough to handle.
Step 2: Peel the shells off the eggs and let them sit away from the heat to keep cooling while you make the gravy!
Step 3: Chop up two tablespoons of onion and one tablespoon of fresh parsley. Your measurements don’t have to be perfect!
Step 4: Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s melted and bubbling slightly, add the parsley and the onion.
Step 5: Cook the parsley and onion for two to four minutes until the onion turns translucent. The onion, parsley, and butter will smell fantastic by this point!
Step 6: Add in a rounded tablespoon of flour and whisk everything together. Let it all cook for a minute or two until it becomes foamy.
Step 7: Slowly whisk in one cup of milk. You want to go slow so the flour mixture can absorb the liquid and make a beautiful, rich sauce. Once you get all the milk in, you might need to let it cook for a few more minutes to thicken up to a consistency you’re happy with. Use your judgement! When it’s done thickening, take it off the heat.
You’ll also want to season the gravy at this point. I added in 1/4 teaspoon of salt, tasted, then I ended up adding another 1/8 teaspoon. I forgot to add pepper, but I didn’t miss it. Season to your liking!
Step 8: Your gravy is finished! Now, slice up those eggs you hard-boiled. I have a handy egg slicer, but a knife would work just as well.
Final step: Toast up some bread, top it with a layer of the sliced eggs, and pour that delicious gravy all over the top.
Like I said, food like this appears in all sorts written accounts of history across time – from fiction novels to diary entries. Toasted bread, eggs, and cream sauce are pretty inexpensive, comforting, and timeless. I love discovering timelessness in history. So many things come and go. So many things we look at now and think, “Wow, I can’t believe that’s how it was!” or “I can’t believe people used to like that!” But, it’s nice to stumble across something that is the same now as it was a long time ago. Something that will be the same in the future as it is now, too.
It makes me feel connected with the past. Things change so fast, but every once in a while, it’s pleasant to find some constants, some reminders of simplicity, and some things that everyone can understand no matter when or where they come from.
From 1908: Lyonnaise Eggs
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbs. salted butter
- 2 Tbs. onion, chopped
- 1 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 rounded Tbs. flour
- 1 cup milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Hard-boil the eggs. Put a pot of water on the stove over high heat. Once the water boils, gently add the eggs with a spoon. Boil them for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately shock eggs in a bowl of ice water or run them under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel and set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once butter is melted and begins to bubble, add the onion and parsley. Cook 2-4 minutes until the onion turns translucent.
- Whisk in flour. Cook 1-3 minutes until mixture becomes foamy.
- Slowly whisk in milk allowing it to absorb into the flour. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes until the gravy reaches your preferred consistency. Remove from heat.
- Season with 1/4 tsp. of salt, taste, and continue to season to your liking if necessary.
- Slice the hard-boiled eggs, layer on top of toasted bread, and then spoon the gravy over the top. Serve immediately.