I have been dreaming of oeufs en cocotte since we left France. I have wanted to place the eggs in some sort of vegetable receptacle since mid-August.
Actually, the only times I ever had oeufs en cocotte in France were at this cheap little hole in the wall restaurant that had one of those zany European locations, at the triangular tip of a back alley intersection. I went there 4 or 5 times over the course of my stay in Toulouse, and it was only on the last trip that I didn’t have to use Google Maps to find my way via blue dot.
This little restaurant boasted a 10 euro (maybe 12?) menu that included the starter, entrée and dessert. Sometimes the seasoning was hit or miss, but they actually do a fantastic job creating rustic little French style meals for financially challenged. And the interior was charming and cozy. I mean that as a compliment. The walls were brick and painted yellow, or there was brick and yellow walls? It was tastefully done in a way that would make any American tourist ooh and aah and oh la la over the place. Lots of eclectic artwork on the walls and even a piano if memory serves me correctly. It became our meeting place for work dinners when my boss would come to town. And my all-time favorite dish there was their baked eggs. Restaurant Le May is the reason I have wanted to create oeufs en cocotte for my own little creative space.
Here, I have made egg dishes precisely three times. Once was to test a recipe for eggs and tomato (delicious, and this recipe will make it to the blog one day), and another time was to stuff my face with quiche (after slaving away at a fake flake puff pastry), which I have also been missing. Crazy since my husband would make quiche weekly for the bagged lunch special, and sometimes I would get sick of not having a plain ol’ sandwich. Now I’ve made this glorious concoction, and although it was a little more labor intensive than I will do regularly in the future for a simply lunch for us three, I think we’ve found our poor man’s lazy dish delight in the many variation possibilities that come with this recipe.
As for this recipe, “labor intensive” should not deter you from trying this. Because actually, for a large brunch main dish, you could easily double the recipe and give everyone one entire bell pepper (2 eggs) and loads of fresh bread, a mimosa and everyone would happily unbuttoning their pants. And you can actually do the prep for the caramelized peppers and the sausage the night before. It’ll keep beautifully and get reheated upon assembly. Winner? I think so.
A few weeks back, when I posted a recipe for Ginger Caramelized Tofu, I also mentioned that vegetarian guests sometimes get left in the dust when food feasting is on the menu. This is a recipe you could very, very easily create a mushroom filling for the bottom of your peppers (in lieu of the sausage one) and keep plates similar for all of your guests. Obviously, there are some limitations to this recipe, in that it definitely won’t appease your vegan guests, but I try where I can.
So and I rock between the tips of my toes and my heels and pull my mouth off to one side…got any favorite egg recipes for me? Flavor combinations that’ll blow my socks into the nearest pool of water (or maybe with a little luck, back to a beach in Thailand?)?
- BELL PEPPER SHELLS:
- 4 medium-large red bell peppers (orange or yellow will also work nicely)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil to brush the peppers
- Salt to season bell pepper shells
- 3 cloves garlic for the whole recipe, minced
- 8 eggs (reserved for assembly)
- ½-3/4 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese or gruyere
- 3 scallions, handful of chives for garnish
- CARAMELIZED PEPPER TOPPING:
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- ½ large red onion
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- SAUSAGE FILLING:
- 1 cup raw sausage meat
- 1 teaspoon salt, scant
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
- Dash of ground black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C)
- Cut your bell peppers in half, lengthwise with a knife sharp enough to cleanly slice through the stem too. Keeping the stem on will not only make your serving “dish” prettier at the end, but it also avoids losing precious egg holding space.
- Use a pastry brush to oil the inside and outside of your pepper. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Unless you are known for going overboard on salt, don’t worry too much about being too liberal. You are going to drain excess water from the bell peppers after their short solo stint in the oven.
- Use tin foil to cover a cookie sheet, and oil that too. Place the bell peppers on the tray and place into oven for 15-20 minutes.
- When they are done, drain excess water from shells, being careful not to burn yourself. I used the little stems when possible, but I also have “strong” fingers.
- While your peppers are in the oven, prep the sausage filling. Add all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Then toss in a sauté pan and cook until cooked through and browned. Set aside for assembly.
- Now you can slice your bell peppers and onion into uniform slices. I half mine for assembly convenience.
- Add oil to a large sauté pan (I used a medium-sized wok) and put over medium heat. Add your peppers and onion, sprinkle on the salt and the rosemary and give it all a stir so the salt gets evenly distributed on the veggies. The salt helps get rid of excess water, giving your peppers that condensed sweet medley of peppers you’re going to use to add flavor to the eggs en cocotte. Then feel free to occupy yourself with other matters (setting the table, slicing baguette or French bread, prepping coffee, hash browns, etc., etc.). Give those peppers minimal stirring during the first 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic. The last 5-7 minutes you have to be more vigilant because the liquid should mostly be gone and you risk charring your colorful mix to the point of being ashy. Nobody wants that. So stir, regroup into a beautiful circle in your pan so you don’t have any strays tricking you into burning them, and don’t forget to take the pepper shells out of the oven if you haven’t already!
- Your peppers should end up looking a deep, rich color, some will be browned and wrinkly and others will have a small strip of black running down the side. That’s okay. After about 15 minutes, add the vinegar to deglaze the pan, stirring. You can probably leave it another 2 minutes and then you can turn off the stovetop.
- Assembly time! Add a small tablespoon of sausage to the bottom of each pepper shell, still on the cookie sheet. Crack open an egg, then off to one side add a small spoonful of caramelized pepper. Sprinkle with some cheddar.
- Bake the eggs for 15-20 minutes at 375°
- Sprinkle with the chives and serve with fresh bread or toast for maximum dipping delight.