Why Eggs en Cocotte? The answer is, like so many answers are, twofold. Firstly, I had ramekins. Secondly, it’s a recipe that you can use to dazzle and amaze people - “oh, Eggs en Cocotte! Other than the word eggs, I have no idea what that means in the slightest! It’s also French sounding, it must be amazing! Bravo!” - whilst not really doing much work in the kitchen. Some might say that’s a kind of laziness, but I prefer to think of it as bit of sharp thinking. Oh, and they’re also tasty.
Let’s break it down; “en Cocotte” means “cooked in a casserole”. Eggs cooked in a casserole, then. Well, at least some ramekins. Break it down a bit more, and you can just think of it as “Baked Eggs”. What are these incredible baked eggs good for? Well, they’re a nice starter or light lunch. As for what goes inside one of these things, it’s relatively up to you, as long as you’re aware of the process; layer of stuff on the bottom, an egg cracked on top of that, some double (heavy) cream on top of that followed by some cheese. Those are very loose guidelines, too. I think the only requirement is an egg in a ramekin. Anyways, make up your mixture, plop it in the oven and let the hefty heatbox work its mighty mojo on the marvellous concoction, slap on plate and elegantly ram into mouth whilst chewing.
Whilst we are on the subject of chewing and mouths, these things taste like a fancier boiled egg. This is because that’s almost exactly what they are. Instead of a shell, they have a layer of something beneath and a layer of cheese on top. If boiled eggs make you gag, then these will too. If you want an apt metaphor; eggs en cocotte is the brother of soft boiled eggs who got the good looks and then went on to university and graduated. That’s not to say boiled eggs aren’t worthy of ingestion – because they are. Breaking open an egg shell with the back of your teaspoon whilst not cracking it up and making a pigs’ ear of the whole thing is like a fun food challenge. So, boiled eggs are good, and so is eggs en cocotte. On with the recipe!
Perhaps the real trick of these things is in their versatility. You can put pretty much anything on the bottom layer and leftovers can (and do) work a treat. Don’t like onions? Leave them out. Hell, scrap ham and mushroom altogether and put some salmon down there. Or try a simple tomato sauce. Or both! You can even leave the bottom layer and the cheese out altogether; shave some truffles on top of a duck egg and you’ve got an even fancier version which is nice enough but, personally, I’m still fond of the ham and mushroom ones.
Ham ‘n Mushroom Eggs en Cocotte
Yields: 4 servings
- 20g Butter
- 1 Small Onion (half a bigg’in), chopped
- 75g Button Mushrooms, chopped
- 75g Cooked Ham, sliced
- 4 Large Eggs
- 4 tsp Double (Heavy) Cream
- 40g Mozarella Cheese (can substitute with any hard cheese)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Pop the oven on to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Melt some butter in a good sized saucepan until it’s good to cook with, then sweat the onions until they are soft.
- Add mushrooms and ham to the pan and continue to cook till the mixture is quite dry (if there’s much moisture left it’ll become a greasy mess at the bottom of the ramekin) and season with a little salt and pepper.
- Spoon the mixture into the bottom of four ramekins (lightly butter them first). Break an egg into each one, add a little seasoning if you want, and then drizzle over the cream. Feel free to add or omit cream to your preference. Finally, top the ramekins with the cheese
- Get the ramekins into a little roasting tin, and then fill the tin with hot (not boiling) water until it reaches about half way on the ramekins.
- Bake for 15 minutes (little longer if you want hard yolks – about 18, but remember that the eggs will keep cooking after you take them out the oven)
- Serve with whatever you’d like; salad, toasty soldiers, etc.