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Julia egg project: Shirred & baked

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shirred eggs and chips
The scrambled and poached eggs portion of the Julia egg project were a cinch compared to using the oven to cook eggs. I didn't do very well with these dishes at all.

Both the shirred (Oeufs sur le Plat) and baked (Oeufs en Cocotte) eggs came out a little overcooked and were firm when they were supposed to remain a little wobbly. I don't like runny eggs, but these would have never passed muster with the great Julia Child.

First the shirred egg. A shirred egg is one that is broken into a small, flat, buttered dish and cooked quickly under the grill. The white is softly set and tender, and the yolk is liquid, but covered by a shimmering, translucent film. In the recipe, the egg is broken into a heatproof dish ­­– a shallow ramekin is recommended ­­– which is then placed on the stove so the bottom cooks before the dish gets bunked in the oven to finish cooking.

I was a little scared to use my ramekin on the gas stove, even if it was just for 30 seconds. I didn't know if it could really stand the heat of an open flame. But as the saying goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs (different egg dish, but you get the idea). So I put the ramekin on the flame and patiently kept it there fo 30 seconds.

Well, it survived... but then I made the mistake of keeping it too long under the grill...

With the baked egg, I just didn't take it out of the oven soon enough and the top burnt. And I put too much butter in the dish so there's an oil slick on top of the eggs.

TOMORROW: The defining egg dish... The Omelette

Eggs from the grease pit
Oeufs en Cocotte

For each serving
  • Preheat oven to 190°C.
1 tsp butter
1 ramekin 6-7.5cm in diameter and about 3.5cm high
2 tablespoons cream
A pan containing 2cm of simmering water
1 or 2 eggs
Salt and pepper
  • Butter the ramekin, saving a dot for later. Add 1 tablespoon of cream and set the ramekin in the simmering water over moderate heat. When the cream is hot, break into it 1 or 2 eggs. pour the remaining spoonful of cream over the egg and top with a dot of butter.
  • Place in the middle level of the moderate oven and bake for 7-8 minutes. The eggs are done when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins. They will set a little more when the ramekins are removed, so they should not be overcooked. Season and serve.
  • Add a teaspoon of chopped herbs with the cream.
  • Put a spoonful or two of any of these cooked ingredients in the bottom of the ramekins along with the cream: chopped mushrooms or asparagus; diced lobster or shrimp
Uh-oh, the unbroken yolk got burnt
Oeufs sur le Plat ­­– Oeufs Miroir

For each serving
  • Preheat grill to very hot.
A shallow, fireproof dish about 10cm in diameter
1 teaspoon butter
1 or 2 eggs
  • Place the dish over moderate heat and add the butter. As soon as it has melted, break the egg(s) into the dish and cook for about 30 seconds until a thin layer of white has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat, tilt dish and baste the egg with the butter. Set aside.
Salt and pepper
  • A minute or so before serving, place the dish an inch below the hot grill. Slide it in and out every few seconds and baste the egg with the butter. In about a minute the white will be set, and the yolk filmed and glistening. Remove, season and serve immediately.
There are several suggestions given in the book to dress up the eggs, for example, with black butter sauce and browned with cheese, but I won't provide the recipes here. The eggs can also be surrounded with sautéed mushrooms, tomato sauce, sausages, "or whatever else strikes your fancy".

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