Kenji Lopez-Alt Kenji Lopez-Alt
April 28, 2016

Q: How can Mother's Day breakfast be special and fuss-free?

A: The trick: Prep ahead, and keep it in one container.

I'm in full support of spouses and children scoring extra points on Mother's Day by delivering hot breakfast in bed. But to pull this off as a treat, that breakfast needs to fulfill three requirements: It has to be a foolproof formula, simple in terms of technique, and-above all else-delicious.

Enter eggs en cocotte, a fancy French term for baked eggs. Traditionally, you'd slip an egg into a buttered ramekin, top it with a splash of cream or cheese, and bake until the whites are set. No extra pans or dishes to clean-easy, breezy.

I wondered if I could make this delicate dish a bit heartier, without having to wake up extra early to prepare it. I tried parcooking cheesy grits, spooning a layer into the bottom of greased half-pint mason jars, cracking an egg on top of each, and then letting them rest, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I placed the jars in a vegetable steamer and cooked them until the eggs set (about five minutes). There were a couple of problems. The eggs cooked before the grits were warm, the grits were too thick, and the yolks wouldn't stay centered.

The solutions were simple: I prepared slightly looser grits (they should flow when you tilt the jars). I refrigerated the grits overnight without eggs, then pressed a dimple into the chilled grits' center where the yolks could settle. Then I steamed the jars without eggs for five minutes. Finally, I gently slipped the eggs inside, covered the steamer again, and steamed for another five minutes.

Perfection: creamy grits, a perfectly cooked egg, and minimal cleanup. A sprinkle of salt and snipped chives was all it needed. You could also add veggies and crumbled bacon for more flavor.

These layered jars make a lovely Mother's Day brunch, but they're also perfect for convenient make-ahead breakfasts. You can fill the jars with grits (or oatmeal or mashed potatoes) up to five days in advance and store them in the fridge. Just steam and top with eggs as needed throughout the week.

The Step-by-Step for the Perfect Mother's Day Breakfast-in-a-Jar- Keep the par-cooked starch loose so it won't overthicken when steamed.- Add flavor, texture, and nutrients with sautéed spinach and mushrooms.- Press a dimple into any extra veggie layer so the yolk settles in the center.- Crumbled bacon or pancetta adds a crispy, smoky, slightly decadent note.

Kenji López-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking.

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