Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"oeufs en cocotte"

It’s no secret around here that I love eggs. A friend and I were recently – and, rather excitedly – comparing our Top 5 egg-dishes, and there was one rather obvious common thread: we both love them runny.

Now, I haven’t always loved runny eggs. In fact, I still don’t really like the Singapore coffee-shop style of coddling eggs in a tub of hot water for a couple of minutes, until the whites are barely set and the yolks are still completely liquid. Two of these – as far as I’m concerned – completely uncooked specimens are cracked into a saucer, and doused in soy sauce and stirred into a pulp. Thankfully, while I still am not a huge fan of runny whites, I’ve learnt to love runny yolks, which are also the perfect sauce.

Oeufs en Cocotte (the fancy french name for Baked Eggs) are something I’ve read about for a long time. For some reason, I never really got around to making them till this past week – ramekins too small; ovenproof dish too shallow; no cream in the house…. All I can say is that I am one helluva fool for procrastinating for so long.

The entire dish comes together in about 15 minutes, and can be customised for any time of the day – add a little chopped ham or crisped bacon under the eggs for breakfast, unmould over a frisée salad for a light lunch, or serve in the shell, topped with a little caviar, for an elegant starter with grilled asparagus spears for dinner. Whatever the time of day, and however you choose to garnish it (or, eat it plain as below), if you love eggs even a quarter as much as I do, I’m sure you’re going to really enjoy this one.
Oeufs en Cocotte
4 eggs
butter for greasing
40g freshly grated cheese (I used emmental here, you could also use a mild cheddar, gruyere, parmesan, or any other melty cheese that tickles your fancy)
60-100g cream
salt and pepper
a few tablespoons of shredded/chopped ham/bacon/leftover roast chicken
a large handful of spinach, blanched and drained well
Preheat your oven to 180C, and butter two appropriately sized ramekins or oven-proof dishes (you want a dish approximately 10-15cm in diameter and 3-5cm deep). Sprinkle most of the cheese evenly into the base of the dishes. If using any of the optional extras, scatter the meat/veg in a thin, even layer over the base, then crack two eggs into each dish. Drizzle half the cream around the yolks (I prefer to have the egg yolks exposed), then season well with salt and pepper, grate over a little nutmeg, if using, and sprinkle the rest of your cheese over.

Bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. When done, it should still be pretty wobbly – the yolks should be runny and the whites just set. (Feel free to take them out a minute or so before the whites are set, as they will continue cooking from the residual heat.) Serve with plenty of buttered toasted bread to mop all the egg up, and a tall glass of iced coffee.

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