When Virginia-born tastemaker Nancy Lancaster (1897-1994) moved to England in the 1920s as wife of aspiring politician and Marshall Field department-store heir Ronald Tree, she brought in her luggage a plethora of family recipes. Whether Lancaster, owner of the august decorating firm Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, was entertaining at Ditchley Park, Kelmarsh Hall, or Haseley Court—to name just three of her celebrated residences—the menu frequently featured a plainly named accompaniment called Mrs Gibson’s Egg Dish, a creamy comfort food that was a specialty of her aunt Irene Langhorne Gibson, the wife of artist Charles Dana Gibson.
Mrs Gibson’s Egg Dish has few ingredients but delivers complexity in its flavour, namely a lovely smokiness from onions cooked in butter, layered with egg whites and egg yolks, and bound with cream. My husband said the casserole-like side dish reminded him of creamed eggs on toast—only less cloying, without the bread, and better tasting. He pronounced it “a great dish” and had seconds. Our daughter echoed that opinion and offered an observation particular to an eight-year-old in the midst of losing two more baby teeth: “It was very easy to chew.”
MRS GIBSON’S EGG DISH
SOURCE: Lady Maclean’s Cook Book by Valerie Maclean (Collins, 1965)
SERVES 6 PERSONS
10 hard-boiled eggs
15 spring onions [I didn’t have any of these on hand so used one small white onion and two medium red onions]
Thin cream [I used light cream]
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a medium-size baking dish.
Finely chop the onions and then sauté them in butter until they are limp and golden.
Separate egg whites and egg yolks. [Break up the whites into pieces and gently crumble the yolks with your hands.] In the buttered baking dish, place a layer of bread crumbs, a layer of whites, a layer of yolks, a layer of onions, salt, and pepper, until dish is filled. Add enough cream to fill the dish [which means to the top of the ingredients, more or less].
Place in oven until done and browned.