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Huevos en Cemitas

A couple of years ago, I found a recipe for eggs baked in brioche that I decided to make for Mother’s Day.  It went over better than I’d hoped since it reminded my Mom of a breakfast she’d loved as a little girl in Cuba.  Not having had it since then, she vaguely remembered ham and béchamel sauce added to eggs baked in rolls called cemitas.  I was especially curious since I’d always thought of traditional Cuban breakfast as pressed pan cubano and cafe con leche.  A few weeks ago, a friend lent me her copy of the book Cuban Cookery by Blanche Z. De Baralt.  An American who lived in Europe and studied at Packer Collegiate, a few blocks away from where I live now, she moved to Havana at the turn of the century  with her husband, a Cuban doctor.  Published in 1931, I fell in love with the combination of her Edith Wharton English with her use of “our” and “we” to describe traditional Cuban food.  She’d clearly gone native, and I liked her that much more for it.  When I found her notes on Huevos en Cemitas or Eggs in Rolls – a  hollowed out breakfast roll filled with chopped meat, petits pois, and cream sauce topped with a raw egg and baked till set – I knew I’d found my mother’s missing recipe.

Here’s a brief description of how it went:

Deciding it was a  good excuse for green eggs and ham, I went to the farmer’s market early to secure a dozen.  Slightly richer than regular eggs, I try to buy them once every summer in honor of the Araucana chicken that gives herself the luxury of laying pastel colored eggs.

The béchamel sauce came together quickly.  The tricky part was making the brioche.  Though any round roll would work, I made my own brioche rolls from the Joy of Cooking.  I’ve only made them once before and  it was a clumsy effort, but did I learn that anything with that much butter works out in the end.

I set the rolls in ramekins to bake at 350 degrees till the eggs were set, about 10-15 minutes.  The result was close to croque madame but with sweeter bread, a croque señorita perhaps?  More importantly, they were the way my mother remembered them.

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