Eggs in pots/ouefs en cocotte, or how I had forgotten a key difference between American and European eggs.

Eggs in pots/ouefs en cocotte

It’s kind of surreal when I consider how much I used to hate eggs given that I’ll have them any time of day nowadays, but I think that my former distaste for them is rooted in the fact that I prefer my eggs on the slightly runnier side rather than cooked to oblivion, and growing up the latter is what we usually had at breakfast on the weekends. (The fact that I would also eat them with pancake syrup–and yes, pancake syrup and not real maple syrup–probably had something to do with it too.) I’m glad that I eventually came to this realization because otherwise I would be missing out on so many fast and relatively inexpensive dishes as well as the health benefits of the egg itself.

Of all the ways I love them–softly scrambled, poached, in an omelette or tortilla, or even baked in a sauce–I think my absolute favorite is the French classic ouefs en cocotte. It’s so easy to make, can be endlessly modified to one’s own taste, and unlike omelette cookery requires very little actual cooking skill aside from safely removing the ramekin from the hot water bath (or bain marie) when it’s done. Rachel Khoo’s take on this dish was what finally got me on board with it as she employed some creme fraiche and salmon roe along with nutmeg and dill to bring it together, and then later when I was flipping through Mimi Thorrison’s cookbook I found her version that employed mushrooms and onions cooked in a red wine sauce to also pique my interest. I tried Rachel’s first during a stint when Michael was away on business, and initially I was really frustrated with it because when I would check in after twelve minutes, then fifteen, and then twenty, it didn’t seem like anything was actually happening. I think I let it stay in there for twenty-five minutes altogether and was preparing myself to spoon into a fully-cooked egg yolk, but happily it was far runnier than I expected. When Michael and I tried Mimi’s version a few months later we also let the eggs go for longer than prescribed and yet the results were similar. It was then when it dawned on Michael where the disconnect lay: given that both of these women are European, they are naturally accustomed to using eggs that aren’t refrigerated. No refrigeration means that egg-cooking times are going to be much shorter as a rule.

Eggs in pots with a red wine sauce, via Mimi Thorisson.

I felt kind of stupid that I couldn’t come to that conclusion myself because OF COURSE. In his omelette recipe Alton Brown has you cover your eggs in fairly warm tap water for about five minutes to let them come to room temperature, and naturally I never thought to do that for any other dishes that would benefit from such a procedure and instead would just gape at them in the oven, wondering what was taking them so damn long to cook.

So when I made myself some eggs en cocotte for a light weekend lunch this past Sunday, I made sure they ended up in a hot bath for five minutes before I cracked them into my ramekin. My ego was slightly comforted by the fact that while the bath helped, I still needed a couple of extra minutes to help the eggs set.

I share with you my sheepish tale of pitiful egg cooking to encourage you to give this dish a try. Use what you have available, whether it’s some leftover bits from dinner a few nights ago or just some herbs and spices that seem particularly appealing at the moment. Rachel calls for dill in hers, but I prefer tarragon with my eggs so I went that particular route with this iteration, and while I did not have any salmon eggs around as a garnish, a drizzle of really good Catalan olive oil and some sea salt seemed to be all the flourish I needed.

Eggs in pots, or ouefs en cocotte
Adapted from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen

Serves 1 as a light lunch or starter for dinner, and multiply as necessary.

One to two eggs (I prefer two myself)
2-3 tablespoons of creme fraiche
A tablespoon of finely chopped tarragon divided, plus extra for garnish
Ground nutmeg
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the meantime, place the eggs in a hot water bath for about five minutes to allow them to come to room temperature.

Season the creme fraiche to taste with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. In a ramekin or other small oven-safe pot, place a tablespoon of the creme fraiche on the bottom and then some tarragon, and then crack an egg on top of it. Add another layer of creme fraiche and tarragon and another egg, and then cover it all with the last bit of creme fraiche and sprinkle the top with some extra salt and pepper.

Place the ramekin into a baking pan that has been placed on an oven rack and fill the pan with lukewarm water until it has come halfway up the sides of the ramekin. Close it up and bake for about 15-18 minutes for runny yolks, or longer for a more set egg.

  1. Darya said:

    Oh how I love oeufs en cocotte. In France it is illegal to wash eggs, as there seems to be some kind of protective film on them that keeps them from going bad too quickly. I keep eggs for up to a month in my apartment, and they never go bad (but I always use them way before the month is gone). I rarely make oeufs cocotte though I love them, but I always tend to overcook the yolks. I tried a method that consisted of first cooking the whites and adding the yolks in for the last 2-3 minutes, and it worked well, but I think I can still perfect my technique… Maybe covering the egg in more cream can keep it from cooking to fast… I’ll try that next time (with tarragon… yum).

    • I might have to try that with the whites and the yolks, just to see what happens!

  2. En cocotte is the ONLY way to eat eggs (other than a frittata) in my opinion. I wouldn’t have figured out the refrigerator issue at all, so be proud you eventually had that aha! moment.

    • I like eggs when either I make them or Michael makes them, but I have no issue sideseat cooking when my dad makes scrambled eggs because I don’t want to eat a brick.

  3. shannon said:

    I read your title too fast, and read it as “eggs in poofs” – i was completely on board for that, by the way. 🙂
    I adore a runny egg: before anyone was scared about eggs (so i guess the seventies and eighties), my mom used to make me the soft-boiled sort: still my favorite, comfort-y way to eat them.
    And I love an egg en cocotte: it just seems super elegant, and it’s a lovely way to achieve what i consider to be a perfect egg. Far too long since i made them this way, but I plan to do that soon thanks to you: yours look gorgeous. herbs and eggs together…*sigh*

    • Seriously–mine turned into a runny, eggy, yolky dip with some super-crusty bread. It was FABULOUS.

  4. Brianne said:

    Eggs…have been making me sick lately! It is the saddest thing, because I freaking love eggs. I’ve tried a few baked egg dishes before and always had the worst luck with the texture. I feel like I should just give this a try and see how it goes/how I feel…! Also, after I whined about my awful cheesecake-baking experience on your last post, I made a much smaller cheesecake this weekend. It was awesome. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I’m so glad that you were able to indulge in some good cheesecake! But boo to not feeling well from eggs–I know sometimes I have had those moments of feeling…off…after eating eggs for no good reason and I just hoped the feeling would pass.

  5. Cecilia said:

    I love French recipes of any kind. This egg recipe is definitely one I will make. It sounds and looks so delicious. And I love eggs. Thanks for sharing.

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