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Business News/ Special Report / How to Cook Easy Eggs—With a French Accent
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How to Cook Easy Eggs—With a French Accent

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Elegant and endlessly adaptable, creamy eggs baked ‘en cocotte’ are an anytime meal that soothes and satisfies

How to Cook Easy Eggs—With a French AccentPremium
How to Cook Easy Eggs—With a French Accent

THEIR SEDUCTIVE NAME is just one of the many pleasures of les oeufs en cocotte. While the French word “cocotte" means a Dutch oven or, more precisely, a cast-iron lidded pot coated in enamel, when les cocottes appear on a menu they refer to little pots of eggs baked with cream or broth, herbs and cheese. Served with crusty bread and a salad, they make a delightful meal at any time of day. And though on the fancy side of home cooking in appearance and taste, they let you give leftovers a sophisticated second act quickly and economically.

Think of the recipe as nothing more than a general blueprint. The rule of thumb: For each serving, crack two eggs into a ramekin, then add a little cream or broth or both to gently coddle the eggs, keeping them tender as they bake. The rest is simply dreaming up ways to gild the lily. Ham and cheese make an obvious addition—with French ham, perhaps a Gruyère; if using Spanish, think Manchego; prosciutto calls for Parmesan. A drizzle of black truffle oil lends an earthy resonance, while a white truffle oil amps up the luxury.

To create vibrancy in both color and taste, scatter on chopped parsley, chives and dill. Or if it’s Sunday brunch, assemble more ambitious accoutrements: some chopped smoked salmon, a little cream cheese, minced red onion, dill fronds and a spoonful of salmon roe. Vegetarians would welcome sauteed mushrooms, cream, broth, fontina and a little porcini powder dusted on top.

Oeufs en cocotte can be light or rich, depending on the ratio of cream to broth you use. As a bare minimum, I add a teaspoon or two of heavy cream or half-and-half; you might prefer more or less. Equally adaptable is the cooking time, which depends on how you like your eggs. Hard-boiled isn’t a good option here, but any other stage—from very runny to slightly jammy—should be delicious. It might take a few tries to nail down your preferred timing, but once you do, you’ll never need to look at a recipe again.

While classic French cookware companies like Le Creuset and Staub produce mini cocottes tailor-made for the task, they aren’t necessary. Ovenproof teacups work nicely, as do ramekins.

As winter lingers, oeufs en cocotte serve as a perfect foil for cold days when another salad or sandwich for lunch feels as uninspired as the gray sky outside. The eggs will warm you and the herbs will remind you that warmer months are just ahead.

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