Shirred Eggs with Fresh Herbs
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making(Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.
I have been to Paris exactly three times.
Despite these three limited experiences, France hangs around here in my own fabrications. Less than original, I know, but more and more, I find myself using France as an adjective rather than a proper noun, a word to emphasize the goodness of things.
I guess the word would be French.
Using a country in my vocabulary without adequate experience of the place makes me feel like I’ve never left this country, like I’ve never left this town…like I’m smoking fancy cigarettes in my little kitchen just to bring in the exotic.
For me, the most French place in my whole yard is the middle of my overgrown herb garden. And so I thought about herbs, and about what herbs want – about what I could eat to bring France right here. It had to be simple and effortless, perfect but able to be cooked in heels – chunky Julia heels. It had to be eggs.
Eggs and herbs have the most natural and romantic affinity for each other. Eggs hold herbs with strength and support, and for one like me who will eat fresh herbs all day long directly from the ground when given the chance, eggs are the perfect excuse. Really, I am not one for subtlety when it comes to herbs. And in the hope of really doing it, and really closing that bridge between me and my semi-imaginary France, it had to have cream and butter, and roughly ground salt and pepper. You might know it as shirred eggs, but today, we’ll call it oefs en cocotte.
Oeufs en cocotte are eggs baked in ramekins or gratin dishes or any little thing you might use that’s, you know, French. They are sometimes over ham, but here over cream, and showered with a blizzard of herbs.
I know. When it snows it Paris, I’m sure it’s snowing tarragon.
Sometimes they will be baked, but today we’re putting them under the broiler because I am impatient. Impatience is not very French at all, but I’m working on it. More time sitting in that overgrown herb garden of mine should just about do it, I think.
Oeufs en Cocotte (or, shirred eggs with fresh herbs)
serves one (while staring off at the distance)
3 eggs (make ‘em good ones - it really counts here)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs- any combination of parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme or basil
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your broiler to medium high. In a small bowl, combine the herbs, parmesan, and garlic. Crack the eggs into a ramekin or tea cup. (They must be ready so that you can act fast). Put the butter and cream into a large ramekin, small gratin dish or other oven safe dish. Put the dish about six inches under the broiler until the butter and cream starts to bubble and sizzle. Watch it carefully–it will burn quickly. Remove the dish from the oven, and pour the eggs into the hot dish over the bubbling cream, taking care not to break the yolks. Sprinkle the herb mixture over the top, and add a bunch of salt and pepper. Put under the broiler and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked but the yolks are visibly liquid.
Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com. All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.