Oeuffs en Cocotte: Baked Eggs with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese
One of the most luxurious experiences is a leisurely breakfast and we have made quite a ritual of it at home or wherever in the world we are. Good food, beautiful table setting, freshly squeezed juice, a steaming cup of coffee, this is my idea of luxury. It doesn’t happen everyday, but I do make a point of carrying out this ritual now and then, creating moments to remember for my family, friends and myself.
Oeufs en cocotte is a French dish named after the dish it is cooked in. A cocotte is a flat individual baking dish with two handle extensions on each side. It’s much like an individual gratin dish and I use it often for baking individual gratins. You can make this in less traditional dishes such as deeper ramekins (small soufflé type dishes) or in small bowls as I do here. The French cocotte police is unlikely to visit your kitchen and I promise not to tell. The French dictionary tells me that cocotte is also what they call a courtesan so here is something for you to talk about at breakfast when you serve these soft, silky, warm eggs. Who knows, maybe a soft and satisfying courtesan once inspired a chef to invent this dish.
We don’t eat eggs very often at home but do like eggs and I have a few ways of preparing them to make it interesting. This is a chic, stylish and easy way to prepare eggs for 2 or 12 people and yes, I made it with wild mushrooms, I told you I am not yet finished cooking with them. You can prepare the dish in advance up to a point and then place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake or broil in the oven.
The presentation is beautiful and the variations are endless. You can make it as simple as eggs and cream or creme fraiche, or elaborate and add different cheeses, cooked spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms as I do here or any other vegetable that is good with eggs. You can also sprinkle a few buttered bread crumbs on top if you wish, but don’t overdo it, you want the soft yolk to ooze out and mix with the rest of the ingredients.
Some cook these in a water bath. A water bath would slow down the cooking and protect the sides of the dish from cooking too fast so I am not against it but it’s not a must. If you cook it in a water bath place the ramekins in a baking pan with raised sides, like a roasting pan, and pour boiling water halfway up the ramekins. Be careful not to burn yourself. Serve them on their own with a good buttered toast on the side, or with toast points, as you would for dipping into soft boiled eggs. I cook the eggs soft yolk so the creamy yolk runs and mixes with the warm mushrooms below. Suit yourself if you like them less runny but I think this is sort of the point of this dish.
If you really are cooking for a crowd you can cook the shallots and mushrooms in advance, place the cheese and cooked mushrooms in the buttered ramekins and then, when you are ready to proceed, break the eggs into the dishes, top with cream and pop them into a preheated oven to cook until they are done.
I like serving eggs with herbs. It’s something I learned years ago when visiting Holland. They served sunny side eggs with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and I never forgot it (see? I told you breakfast makes lasting memories). I use thyme here because I have so much of it in the garden and it goes well with mushrooms, but you can try something else. Also, don’t limit this dish to breakfast. It makes a lovely light supper paired with a salad and a glass of white wine.
This recipe serves 2.
4 eggs, preferably organic with orange yolks
1 tablespoon buter, softened
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 medium size wild mushrooms (chanterelles or lobster mushrooms) or shitake, enough to make 1 heaping cup chopped mushrooms.
1/4 cup chopped chives
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cream
Hot pepper sauce, optional
Fleur de sel
Butter 2 ramekin dishes on the bottom and sides with the softened butter.
Place the crumbled goat cheese in each dish.
Melt butter in a skillet, add the shallots and cook until softened but not browned.
Add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are softened, stirring to make sure they do not burn.
Add the chives, half the thyme and the salt, cook for an other minute or so and remove from heat.
Divide the mushrooms among the two ramekins over the goat cheese.
Break two eggs into each ramekin, being careful not to break the yolks.
Spoon 2 tablespoons cream over the eggs and sprinkle with remaining thyme.
Drizzle a little hot pepper sauce if you wish (I do).
Place on a foil lined baking sheet and cook in a preheated 375℉ until whites are cooked and yolks are still soft, about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. You need to watch the eggs to make sure they are cooked just to that point. They will also continue to cook when you take them out of the oven.
When the eggs are cooked to your liking remove from the oven, sprinkle a few grains of Fleur de Sel over each dish, garnish with a few more thyme leaves and serve immediately.