Each week, I look forward to Friday evening. Not only for the obvious reason (it’s the start of the weekend, after all) but because just before dinnertime on Fridays I spend one hour tutoring two fantastic eleven-year old twin girls in English. Oftentimes, at some point during the lesson, their smiley and sporty mother ducks her head into the room and hands me an edible, homemade gift, such as a jar of honey from their neighbor’s beehive or a handful of tiny, sweet clementines from their backyard. This past Friday, she presented me with a single egg produced that morning by one of their chickens. “This egg is very fresh,” she assured me. “You should eat it oeuf à la coque!” At the time I just nodded and thanked her vigorously, then trotted home, wondering what oeuf à la coque meant in English.
Thank goodness for Google Translate.
Oeuf à la coque translates to “egg in the shell,” or what we think of as a soft-boiled egg (I believe the Brits, who are great at turning a phrase, call them dippy eggs with soldiers). For those who are just as confused as I am by the myriad ways of preparing an egg, soft-boiling results in an egg so runny it must stay in its shell to be eaten. The best way to get as this gooey goodness? Dunk it with petite sticks of toasted bread. I fell instantly in love with this breakfast treat. And apparently, according to Wikipedia, King Louis XV of France fell in love with it, too; he broke fast on oeuf à la coque every single Sunday morning.
Not a bad idea, Louis.
oeuf à la coque
1 very fresh egg
2 slices of good bread, toasted
salt & pepper
Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Carefully place egg in the water (with a spoon) and let boil for exactly three minutes and fifteen seconds (okay, three minutes or three and a half minutes would probably also work, but I’m telling you that 3:15 was the magic number for me). Immediately remove egg from the pan and place in a small dish of cold water to stop the cooking.
Meanwhile, toast a couple good slices of bread. Slice into sticks. Butter if you like (the French like this. I chose to keep it dry.)
Place egg in an egg cup. Tap the top of the egg forcefully with your spoon to crack, then, using a sharp knife, carefully slice off the top of the egg (I like to think of it as the egg’s hat). Season with salt and pepper. (As an aside, apparently there is a wonderful invention called “egg scissors” or an “egg topper.” What a world! But don’t worry; a sharp knife does the job.)
And that’s it! To me, this method of preparing an egg feels simultaneously fancy and playful. It’s finger food for a king (King Louis XV, in fact). It’s fussy but fun. It’s like seeing a finger painting in a fine arts museum. How many different ways can I say this? I think you get the picture.
I (thoroughly) enjoyed my oeuf a la coque with a cup of strong coffee and toast with confiture de pastèque, or watermelon jam. This, too, was a gift from the mother of the twins I tutor. When she gave it to me, I didn’t understand the word pastèque, but she assured me it was like no jam I had tried before. You can imagine my surprise when I got home and looked up the word. Who would’ve known that 1) you could make jam from such a watery fruit, or 2) that it would be so darn tasty?
I must say here that there is nothing in the breakfast world more satisfying then that first dunk of bread into the molten, golden center of a soft-boiled egg. It’s like your own mini-volcano science project, except that it’s delicious.
If you’re like me and are stuck in an egg rut (there’s more to life than a scramble or an egg-over-easy), I suggest you channel your inner Louis XV and try an oeuf a la coque as soon as possible. Allow me to stress, however, that your egg ought to be very very fresh, especially if your system’s not used to this cooking method.