French Pot-Baked Eggs (Oeufs en Cocotte)
Grimace all you want at the fact I say 'dippy egg'. I grew up with it being a hot set of words in my house, being the thing that would make me leap out of bed on a Saturday morning if my mam shouted it up the stairs. Same for a lot of us Brits; we have cosy memories of dippy egg and soldiers, and as much as we can still enjoy one as an adult treat, our now adult size makes a dippy seem so small and meagre - barely a meal at all. It's about time dippy eggs had an adult counterpart, for grown ups to tuck into with relish, with big grown-up baguettes instead off soggy little soldiers.
The French, however, solved this problem long ago: Oeufs en Cocotte, which means 'eggs in a little pot'. It's a historical French recipe of many a grandparents' era, marked up with whichever additions you have around: crispy bacon, some fresh herbs or some fried mushrooms and leeks; they all have a place within this dish too, if you prefer!
The eggs are traditionally cooked in the oven, in a water bath. Simply put, you crack a load of eggs into a pot, place it into a roasting tin and fill it with some hot water. This all goes into the oven to bake, until the white are barely set, and the yolks are still runny and unscathed. Fussy as it could seem, baking it in a water bath ensures the heat reaches every part of the dish evenly, and is essential in avoiding uncooked, snotty eggs.
It may be a home dish, but I've found it to be a hugely successful sharing dinner to have with drinks - a mild white wine like Riesling pairs wonderfully with it - and a crusty French baguette with some softened butter to dip.
ŒUFS EN COCOTTE
- 5 large free-range Eggs
- 100g of Bacon Lardons (smoked or unsmoked) - optional
- 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon (or dried) - optional
- 2-3 teaspoons of Butter - plus some extra for greasing & serving
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Begin by preparing whichever optional fillings you would like to use. My picks are bacon and chopped tarragon, though you can fry some leeks or mushrooms in a little butter for 10 minutes. Fry 100g of bacon lardons in a little oil until they are crisp, then place into the bottom of a well-buttered oven dish.
- Crack 5 eggs into the buttered dish, being careful to burst any of the yolks - not a terrible thing if you do though. Use a wide enough dish that doesn't crowd the eggs on top of each other - something 8" diameter or bigger - as it will increase the cooking time. Sprinkle over a teaspoon of tarragon - fresh or dried - and dollop about 2-3 teaspoons of butter on top of the eggs. Finally, sprinkle over half a teaspoon of sea salt - good eggs need plenty of salt.
- Place the whole dish into a roasting tin and fill the tin with water from a boiled kettle. Fill it until the water comes about half-way up the pot of eggs. Place the whole pan into the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 200C, until the eggs are gently set yet slightly wobbly.
- Once cooked, Remove from the oven and the water bath right away to prevent over-cooking. Serve straight away with a fresh French baguette and a block of softened butter. Enjoy with greed!