Friday, November 25, 2005

Eggs "à la coque"

I've always been fascinated by the myriad of beautiful ways eggs are cooked in the US and Anglo-Saxon countries in general. The names are so appealing: sunny side up, over easy, eggs Benedict... Omelets come with a long and imaginative list of ingredients that varies from one region to the other. Eating eggs in the morning makes breakfast a real feast! I love it.

There's nothing comparable in France... Eggs are eaten much less often, traditionally for lunch or dinner, where they replace meat, as a lighter and cheaper option. We use eggs extensively in pastry, custards, sauces and the like but rarely as the center piece of a meal. And our "omelettes" usually contain... well, eggs, salt and pepper... with sometimes (but not necessarily!) a single other ingredient like mushrooms, fresh herbs or tomatoes. At least that's the way it is in my family.

However, there is one recipe that you guys might not know yet... The funny and delicious "œufs à la coque". The eggs are soft boiled, for only 3 minutes. This is just enough time to harden the white and get the yolk warm but liquid. The eggs are placed immediately in a cute little dish, "le coquetier", just big enough to hold the eggs upright.

Children love eggs à la coque and I was no exception. My Dad was always assigned to cut off the top of the eggs, knocking on the shell with a dull knife. He would then remove "le chapeau" and I would start with this piece, scooping off the egg white with a little spoon. I would then dip "les mouillettes" in the yolk (these are buttered toasts cut into long "fingers"), and scoop the egg white at the bottom. My favorite joke was to flip the empty eggshell up side down and ask: "Papa, can you cut off the top of my egg for me?" Of course he would play along, even after a thousand times, and look genuinely surprised to find out the shell was empty!

As an adult the first part (eating the egg!) is still truly enjoyable. You should try, even for breakfast!

To sum up, you need:

  • 1 egg per person
  • 1 slice white or whole wheat bread, toasted
  • butter
  1. Gently sink the eggs in boiling water.
  2. Boil for 3 minutes (4 if they are very cold).
  3. Place in egg cups or on a bed of lettuce leaves (the idea is to hold the eggs upright).
  4. In the meantime, toast the bread, spread butter and cut into "fingers", the size of french fries.
  5. Cut off the top of the egg, "le chapeau" ("the hat").
  6. Eat the egg white with a tea spoon.
  7. Dip the toasted bread fingers in the yolk.

If the eggs are part of a lunch or dinner, they can be served with a green leaves salad.


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Anonymous said...

héhé j'aime beaucoup !
At home we even had some kind of special scissors in the shape of a circle, from which small metal teeth would come out and cut the egg's shell open, we called that a "craque-oeuf"... sounds quite mad when I think about it now !

Susan said...

Hello Estelle,

Bryce adores this dish, and now asks for it as "Humpty Dumpty Eggs" - I can't remember how I named it that, maybe because I knew it as Eggs with Soldiers? and the soldiers are there to (unsuccessfully!) put Humpty back together again... or eat him up instead, yum yum. The other fun one he likes is Toad-in-the-hole, because I let him cut the hole in the bread.

French Recipe said...


This is the good recipe.

It'a a very simple recipe
but the result is very good.

Bonne journée

Alban from France

Margaret said...

quanterWell! I agreed with your recipe until you said that the tops should be cut off with a knife! Surely the only way is to crack gently all the way round with your spoon, then lever off......?

And of course you have to turn the eaten shell upside down and crack it good and hard to prevent the witches stealing them and using them as boats.... (mighty small witches in England, evidently).

Anyway, however you get into them, or treat the shells afterwards, Eggs with Soldiers is a lovely and simple treat.