This is for me the ultimate nursery food: a comforting dish, oozing butter and cream with the hidden treasure of a soft, nourishing yolk in the middle!
Choose duck eggs for a change, they are lovely at the moment. This couple of ducks were shot in the Wetland Centre in Barnes: A great place for ducks and birds of all feathers but get your eggs from elsewhere.
Tonight I am using Elizabeth David recipe found in “French country cooking”, first published in 1951. The result was as delicious as I recalled… The traditional recipe includes ham so I added that in for memories sake. For a bigger egg (and more yolk to dip the bread in!), I used large duck eggs. I fantasise one day of using one single goose egg to make one big “oeuf cocotte” in a large soufflé dish, for example. But usually, some Le creuset terracotta ramequins are better suited though and give each guest a lovely individual dish to delve into… Elizabeth David talks of “little fireproof china dishes”, but you can be creative and use any small pot so long as it goes into the oven.
Ingredients list: Quantities for one
1 duck egg per person
1 spoonful of butter
1 spoonful of cream
1 thick slice of cooked ham
Cut a rough circle of ham and put it at the bottom of the dish. Heat the oven to fairly hot and put a blob of butter on top of the ham. Leave the dish in the oven until the butter has melted. Then crack an egg in each dish and cover with a good spoonful of cream. Leave to cook for 5 to 8 min. or until the white is set and the yolk still runny. Do not overcook or the dish is ruined! Simple but crucial.
Serve hot with a pinch of chopped tarragon and some cracked pepper. Some buttered olive bread from Chez Paul tonight made a welcome contribution to help us enjoy the hidden treasure inside the cream. I used to like my oeuf cocotte with plain soldiers but this is a matter of taste. This is regressive, comforting food if there was any – so no rules but family tradition must prevail!