Eggs En Cocotte

What does your perfect Sunday morning look like? Mine involves sleeping late, a delicious breakfast involving eggs, a pot of coffee for Paul, maybe a mimosa for me and the newspapers.

Eggs en cocotte, eggs nestled in a creamy spinach and ham casserole

Eggs en cocotte or Oeufs en cocotte (to be more correct) is a decadent little egg breakfast dish that’s just right for such a morning. Fresh eggs with runny yellow yolks cozily nestled in a bed of bubbling hot sautéed spinach and flavorful ham bound together by a creamy sauce with just a hint of garlic and cheese. I like to scoop up the spinach and ham, slather it on toast points and then dip into the egg yolk.

Don’t let the name make you think it’s some super complicated recipe.
Ouefs = Eggs
En Cocotte = In a casserole
So it’s basically just baked eggs, but bonus points if you call everyone to the table by announcing “Oeufs en cocotte sont prêt!” with your best French pronunciation 😉 You can use any small oven-proof dish, a ramekin works well or you could be more literal and use one of those cute baby Le Creuset or Staub Dutch ovens.

How to make eggs en cocotte with ham and spinach

Think of this recipe as more of a suggestion or starting point for your egg baking addiction because I’m guessing you won’t only make this once! I like to pair a really tasty baked ham (Niman Ranch Jambon Royale for example) with nutritious spinach but you can swap the ham for crispy cooked bacon or skip it for extra veggies if you’re not a meat eater. If you’re not a fan of spinach, consider sautéed mushrooms, wilted kale, baked zucchini slices, a tangle of caramelized onions, ripe tomatoes – so many possibilities!

If you’re feeling particularly lazy you can skip making the rich creamy sauce and just drizzle in a little heavy cream but I promise it’s worth the extra 5 minutes. 

I’m rating this recipe medium difficulty because there’s a slightly tricky part in deciding when the eggs are done baking. You can’t stick a thermometer in the egg (unless you want to burst the yolk) and even though I’ve included cooking times it’s going to vary according to the depth of your ramekins, the exact size of your eggs and the accuracy of your oven), you’ll have to jiggle the dishes to judge the level of done. I’ve found that sometimes by the time the egg whites have cooked then yolk is also cooked through but swapping the last few minutes of baking for broiling stops this happening.

eggs en cocotte or baked eggs

  • Servings: 2 people
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

Small piece of butter
~4 oz spinach (use more than you think, it wilts down to nothing!)
4 slices of good ham
1 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove
~1 tbsp grated cheese – parmesan or gruyere
2 eggs

You’ll need small dishes/ramekins/baby Dutch ovens to cook the eggs in, plus a baking tray or dish large enough to hold the ramekins in their hot water bath.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and put kettle/pan of water on to boil.
  2. Melt small knob of butter in pan, quickly cook spinach until just wilted.
  3. While spinach cooks, butter ramekins (so ham and spinach doesn’t stick) and layer ham on the bottom (taste the ham and if it’s salty you can reduce your seasoning as you cook).
  4. Add cooked spinach on top of ham leaving a hollow in the middle for the eggs.
  5. Wipe out pan (or else you’ll have green sauce). Gently crush a peeled garlic clove with the side of a knife (you want to just break the clove open to add just a hint of garlic).
  6. Add cream and garlic to pan over a high heat, add a pinch of salt (less if your ham is salty) and fresh ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Watch carefully as cream has a tendency to boil over, just lift pan from heat if this happens. Bubble furiously, stirring constantly and scraping down edges for ~5 minutes until cream has thickened. If you scrape your spoon across the pan you should see a trail in the cream. Remove from heat. Remove the garlic and add a little grated cheese (parmesan or gruyere) and stir to combine.
  7. Divide cream between the dishes and add a fresh egg to each one. If you’re a nervous egg cracker, crack egg onto small saucer first to check you haven’t broken the yolk and then slide into hollow.
  8. Put the egg dishes into the larger baking dish and pour in boiling water around the dishes so the water level is about halfway up the side (the water helps to cook the eggs more gently). Pop in 350 degree oven for ~10 minutes until the spinach is bubbling hot and the egg whites are just starting to turn opaque. Turn on the broiler (keep a constant watch!) and broil for 1-3 minutes so the eggs are just cooked with the yolk still runny (of course you can cook them for longer if you prefer a fully cooked yolk). The dishes will be super hot so be careful getting them out of the water bath.

Serve with hot buttered toast soldiers (strips of toast perfect for dipping).

Hot buttered toast points dipped in the egg yolk of eggs en cocotte with ham and spinach

No-Bake Chocolate Easter Nests

Chocolate Easter Nests? But Leah, you don’t bake!!! Relax, there’s no oven involved and you don’t have to be super accurate about measurements so this is acceptable not-baking for me 🙂  I was listening to a Bon Appetit podcast about how the most potent ingredient in any recipe is nostalgia i.e. food you ate when you were growing up. Which got me thinking about the little chocolate nests we’d make as children at Easter.

3 ingredients, 10 minutes, no actual baking (except a little help from the microwave to melt the chocolate) – this is a great recipe to make with little ones who will get a kick from making the nests, not to mention their tiny fingers are helpful when putting the chocolate eggs in the nest!
Easy Chocolate Easter Nests with shredded wheat and mini eggs
The little yellow fluffy chicks are optional but I picked up mine at one of those Party City stores for $1.99 for 12 chicks because they’re cute.

There’s a recipe AND a step-by-step video at the bottom of this post but if you’re looking for the cliffnotes:
– Take out any frustration and stress you have by punching and crushing a bunch of shredded wheat (you can also use other cereal like rice krispies or cornflakes but it won’t look as nest/twig like)
– Melt chocolate
– Mix melted chocolate and crushed shredded wheat
– Drop into cupcake cases and top with mini eggs. Let cool so chocolate hardens (you can use the fridge if you like).
Quick and easy chocolate Easter nests with Cadbury's mini eggs
You don’t have to use semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate works too! If you want to make mini chocolate nests you can use jelly beans in place of the chocolate mini eggs, Cute little chocolate Easter nests made in 10 minutes with just 3 ingredients

And…if you’re in the mood for a more elegant, shall we say adult Easter nest then try swapping out the shredded wheat for salted pretzel sticks and dark chocolate. Stop by your favorite chocolatier and pick up some fancier eggs and make dark chocolate salted pretzel nests for the grown ups!Elegant dark salted chocolate Easter nests

If you use the pretzel sticks you’ll want to put a little more effort into building the nest so the egg stays securely in place.
Dark chocolate covered salted pretzels made an elegant Easter dessert.

And I made a little 60-second video so you can see the nests being made. Paul suggested that I post this at a quiet time of the day in case I break the internet, he’s so sarcastic supportive.

Chocolate Easter Nests

  • Servings: 6 large nests or 12 small nests
  • Time: 10 minutes plus time in the fridge
  • Difficulty: a small child could do this with a little help melting the chocolate
  • Print

 

Ingredients:

2 cups of shredded wheat (~4.5 biscuits)
11 oz semi-sweet or white chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
18 Cadbury’s mini eggs (or your choice of chocolate/candy eggs)

Directions:

  1. Crush the shredded wheat. Post Shredded Wheat comes in handy little envelopes containing 3 biscuits. Punch the envelopes to crush the cereal without making a big mess.
  2. Melt the chocolate. Get all fancy with a bain marie (put a bowl over a simmering pan of water) or just blast in the microwave for 30 second increments giving it a good stir in between each blast. If your microwave is super powerful, try 15 second intervals.
  3. Stir in 2 cups of crushed shredded wheat into the melted chocolate.
  4. Divide the mixture between 6 cupcake cases. Use a small knife or teaspoon to make a little hollow in each nest
  5. Place 3 mini eggs upright in the hollow of each nest. Allow to cool and chocolate to harden (faster in the fridge)
  6. Leave in cases if you’ll be transporting to an Easter party or peel off the cases and set out on a platter with fluffy chicks!

Grown Up version:

Swap the chocolate for your favorite dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 70% dark chocolate) and use salted pretzel sticks in place of shredded wheat. You’ll likely use closer to 3 cups of pretzels as they don’t soak up the chocolate like the shredded wheat. If your fancy eggs from the chocolatier are larger, flatten out the cupcake cases to make larger nests. Place a spoonful of chocolate covered pretzel sticks in as a base and then add the egg. Carefully move around the nest adding the sticks to hold the egg in place.

Enjoy! Did you make anything similar growing up? What’s your nostalgic baking recipe?

Where to eat brunch on Monday in Portland, Maine

Brunch – not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, according to the Monday brunch menu at Central Provisions.  Eggs are inevitably involved. Pair said eggs with a mimosa or a bloody mary – what’s not to like? So how come most restaurants only offer brunch on Sunday? What if it’s Monday and you feel like brunching?

Perhaps you’re visiting Portland, Maine for the weekend? Maybe you’re staying through Sunday evening and you’d like a delicious brunch on Monday morning before your drive/flight home. You’re thinking “Where can I get brunch on Monday in Portland, Maine?” Good news! Central Provisions (nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant!) serves brunch on Mondays!

If you haven’t had the pleasure of eating at Central Provisions then brunch is a good introduction to the wonders of this Portland, Maine favorite. Central Provisions “staples” like bread and butter and tuna crudo are consistent favorites on the menu along with seasonal and daily specials. There are no reservations so be prepared for a considerable wait if you want to visit during high-season (June – September) but over the last month we’ve always been able to snag a table or seat at the bar with no wait.

I’m all about the bread and muffins at brunch but I know that for gluten-free people, sadly that’s not the case. At one of my Monday brunches I was joined by a friend who lives with celiac disease. The Central Provisions staff kindly and thoroughly annotated the menu to show her the Gluten Free options (which were plenty!)

I’ve been on a bit of a Monday brunch mission recently, catching up with friends, family and colleagues and working my way through most of the brunch options at Central Provisions over my last four visits. Here are some highlights:

Bread and butter
I’ve loved this dish ever since my first visit to Central Provisions. There are seasonal changes – maybe the butter changes from hazelnut to seaweed but it’s just so good. That first bite of warm bread generously smeared with “egg” never fails to delight.

Egg McFoie
At first glance, your standard breakfast sandwich with crisp bacon, runny-yolk fried egg and melty cheese on a generously buttered then toasted English muffin. Take a closer look though. Hiding under all that breakfast goodness is a whopping great piece of seared foie gras. The Egg McFoie sandwich will RUIN you for all other breakfast sandwiches in the future, so order at your own peril….

You can see the foie on the image below on the left. My most recent Egg McFoie (on the right) was missing the cheese but I can’t say it affected my enjoyment in the slightest.

Beet salad
As the bowl of sweet roasted beets with a lemon and avocado cream is set down on the bar, my heart skips a beet. Sorry, not sorry. If you love beets, heck, even if you’re ambivalent about beets, get this salad. Your opinion of beets will forever be revised. My own love of beets is well documented and I’m totally going to attempt this lemon-y/avocado-y/peppercorn-y dressing at home next time I roast some beets.

Roasted cauliflower
The cauliflower is roasted to a deep, dark brown color, with Ras el hanout, crunchy deep-fried chickpeas, matchstick slices of apple, crumbled feta, fresh mint and parsley – it’s a big bold dish.

CP fries
Shoestring fries in a cute little paper cup with a tasty little aioli or ketchup. Great side to go with your breakfast sandwich or burger but I think I’d rather just get an extra order of the beet salad next time! 

Cornbread special with uni and kimchi
This was a special so there’s a good chance it won’t feature if you decide to visit Central Provisions for a Monday Brunch. A perfect little cornbread was filled with kimchi, a runny egg and generously topped with uni. On this particular Monday I’d taken my Mom for brunch and she somehow misheard this special and ordered it being unaware of the uni. Who knew? My Mom’s an uni fan!

Yellowfin Tuna crudo
How can such a little piece of tuna taste SO GOOD? I have no idea but it explains why this dish is a regular on the Central Provisions Monday Brunch menu! If there was some kind of Oscars for tuna dishes, this one would be getting the lifetime award. And other tuna dishes would be thanking it for the inspiration. It’s so simple – a perfect piece of tuna, carefully sliced, a little drizzle of mustard-y magic, crispy onions, crunchy radish – and so delectable.

Benton’s ham
16-month aged Benton’s ham with pimento cheese and two divinely flaky little biscuits. The salty ham pairs beautifully with the spicy cheese slathered onto the tiny biscuits. If I HAD to choose between this and an Egg McFoie sandwich it would be tough but I’d probably go Egg McFoie. And then covet the Benton’s ham of the person sitting next to me.

Brunch finishes promptly at 2pm with last orders at 2:15pm but if you’re having too good a time to leave you can make your way downstairs to the cozy little bar and enjoy more coffee, a cocktail or a couple of $5 bar snack rations – chicharrones, marinated olives, almonds, pickles or potato chips. My cocktail of choice is the Glass Slipper – Maine vodka, elderflower liquor, orange blossom water, topped up with prosecco. Icy shards of glass-like ice and a twist of orange peel makes it even better.

Central Provisions
414 Fore Street, Portland, Maine
Email: info@central-provisions.com
Phone: 207-805-1085
http://www.Central-Provisions.com
Open 11am-2pm for lunch each day (brunch on Sunday/Monday), 5-10pm for dinner, 10pm – 12am for rations.
No reservations, walk-in only.

Are you a brunch fan? Where’s your favorite brunch spot? Let me know!