A crash course in eggs en cocotte
In this classic French technique, eggs are cracked into individual ramekins and baked in a water bath, and always achieve runny-yolk perfection. Oeufs en cocotte, compared to other baking techniques like eggs baked in muffin tins and cast-iron baked eggs, is totally underrated, possibly because many traditional French dishes are technical and very involved. Yes, whipping together soufflés is not an easy task, and mastering the French omelet takes time. Eggs en cocotte allows more room for error than other egg-cooking techniques, so it's ideal for lazy mornings when you're still a little sleepy.
Baked eggs can be finicky, though. Often, by the time you think your egg is cooked, the yolk is chalky and the white is rubbery. A raw egg is comprised of water and protein, so as the egg is heated, the proteins inside unfold and create a web. The more the egg is cooked, the tighter the web gets, squeezing out the water and evaporating it. That leaves you with an unappealing egg.
The best way to avoid this common egg mistake? Cook your eggs as gently as possible. If you’re baking eggs in an oven, the temperature of the ramekins will continue to rise, so if you leave the eggs in the oven for too long—even just an extra 30 seconds—you will likely overcook them. Surrounding the dishes with simmering water will ensure that the temperature of the ramekins never exceeds the temperature of the water.
Here's how to make eggs en cocotte:
1. Grease the insides of each ceramic bowl, add a handful of cooked ingredients to the bottom of the dish (bacon, onions, or spinach). What fills the ramekins is totally up to you—it can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like.
2. Crack one or two eggs on top.
3. Drizzle a little bit of cream around the egg and top with grated cheese.
4. Set the filled ramekins in a large straight-sided dish, like a casserole dish or a cake pan.
5. Fill the pan with simmering water until it’s leveled with the egg mixture. But be careful not to pour the water directly into the ramekins.
5. Bake the eggs for 5 minutes, checking them every minute until the whites are set and the yolks are perfectly runny.