Eggs en cocotte are a surprisingly quick and simple breakfast, all you need is the ambition to pre-heat the oven.
A cocotte is formally a covered casserole or Dutch oven (any size) but is also often used as a synonym for ramekin. A cover isn’t at all necessary, so any ramekin or oven-proof teacup is fine here, 6-8oz is ideal. Even a muffin pan will work, though I prefer the ease of serving and the uniform heating of either porcelain or ceramic. Great for brunch as you can put them together in an assembly line, and your serving capacity is only limited by the number of cute little oven-safe dishes you have. It’s convenient if they are all more or less the same size, so they will cook uniformly.
Adorable 8oz mini cocotte from Le Creuset in Caribbean
Add-ons will improve the situation, but eggs, butter and cream alone will do just fine. I like to include any combination of the following: bacon, ham, parsley, cilantro, asiago, gruyere, cheddar, parmesan, chives, scapes, dill, basil, scallions, caramelized onions, sauteed vegetables…anything you would put in an omelet, really.
What you do:
Pre-heat oven to 375°
Heat water in a kettle
Liberally butter (unsalted) the base and sides of cocotte(s), leave a little pat of butter in the bottom.
Layer add-ons into the cocotte as desired. Here I’ve layered scallions, garlic scapes, cooked bacon lardons (+ dash of bacon fat), cheddar, asiago.
Add one or two eggs, depending on the size of your cocotte and hunger levels. Add salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Pour in a dash (anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp) of cream (cream on the bottom also popular). Add a little more cheese on top (this is non-traditional, but I like a lot of cheese).
Place cocottes in a casserole dish (I add a paper towel to the bottom so they don’t slide around) and pour hot (not quite boiling) water around such that the water level comes half-way up the sides of the cocotte. The water bath/bain marie helps keep the eggs tender and evenly cooked.
Cook 10-15 minutes, depending on your taste and the size of your ramekins. I like to cook for about 10-12 minutes and then broil for 1 to brown that cheese but still have the yolk soft. The broiler business is non-traditional and an easy way to overcook the egg, so be careful with this if you try it.
Very little trial and error is required to figure out what the best cooking time is for your favorite kind of egg. It’s never too late to add more garnish at the end, either, herbs especially. I’ve been putting garlic scapes on everything to great effect lately.
Don’t forget the coffee.