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OEUFS . . . EGGS IN ENGLISH FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Oeufs, eggs in English, are ubiquitous in French cooking. Not only as a supporting player, but also as the star performer. In a country that has traditionally eaten a light breakfast, eggs make their appearance during lunch and dinner. Where Americans think of eggs mostly as a breakfast item, the French welcome them in a multitude of forms as part of l’entrée, the starter, or le plat, the main course.

In his 1914 classic, Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier lists 422 different egg dishes. But those are only the recipes where eggs star. There are many more recipes where eggs are a significant ingredient, such as soufflés and custards. Many of Saulnier’s recipes are exact duplicates of those detailed by Escoffier in Le Guide Culinaire, originally published in 1902. (Saulnier’s goal was to create a compendium, “a brief and handy form, [of] as many recipes as possible, both old and new, with which every skilled cook should be familiar.”) Escoffier also lists a very large number of egg recipes in his book.

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Both Saulnier and Escoffier list ten basic ways of cooking eggs, some of which are familiar to the American diner. The descriptions below are quoted from Saulnier.

Brouillés [scrambled]

 

[Put the] eggs in a pan with salt, pepper; whisk and cook them in bain-marie. Finish with cream and butter.

En cocotte [coddled]

 

Butter the cocotte and break the eggs in, season and place them in a pan or tin with water, steam under cover, or bake in oven.

Durs [hard-boiled]

 

Place the eggs in boiling water and cook 8 minutes, plunge in cold water.

Frits [fried]

 

Break the egg on a plate, season with salt and pepper, heat some oil in an omelet pan, let the egg slide into the oil and with a wooden spoon cover up the yolk with the solidified portions of the white, one egg at a time.

Coque (à la) [soft-boiled]

 

Plunge the egg in boiling water and cook two or three minutes.

Mollets [soft-boiled]

 

Boil five and half minutes, cool and shell.

Moulés [coddled]

 

Break the eggs in butter moulds, cook five and half minutes, let stand a while and unmold.

Pochés [poached]

 

Break the eggs in boiling water and poach two minutes and a half, when done dip them in cold water.

Omelettes [omelets]

 

Omelet making is at once very simple and very difficult, for tastes differ regarding their preparation. Some like them well done, some just done, and other almost liquid. The eggs are beaten, seasoned and poured in an omelet-pan containing very hot butter, stir briskly with a fork in order to heat the whole evenly, and if the omelet is to be garnished it should be done before rolling up. The whole process should be done speedily, and requires long practice to attain perfection.

Oeufs sur le plat [baked]

 

Butter the egg dish, season the bottom and break the egg in, start cooking on the stove and finish in the oven, in a tin containing water.

Saulnier’s times are a bit shorter than commonly used for modern preparation. Escoffier’s timings are closer to those used today. Probably, eggs in their time were a bit different from the factory eggs available to today’s cooks.

French eggs are also sized differently from those in the U.S. In both countries, the standard size used in recipes is a “large” egg. The average net weight of an American large egg is 50 grams (30 grams of white and 20 grams of yolk), whereas in the EU, a large egg is closer to 58 grams. My experience with French eggs is that they tend to have a slightly thicker and tougher shell than American eggs. This makes them stronger as a “serving container.”

SAMPLE RECIPES

For the recipe selection presented below, I’ve chosen both traditional and modern egg recipes. I’ve also tried to present a cross-section of preparation styles and courses. Click on a recipe title to open the recipe.

For other egg recipes follow the link below to Peter Hertzmann's web site.

This article comes from the web site of Peter Hertzmann, called à la carte. This is one of the finest web sites I have come across.

Whilst most of us are keen amateurs who love to dabble, Peter is truly dedicated to the pursuit of his interest in and love of cooking. If his web site was to be published as a book I would be first in line to buy a copy!

What is à la carte about? This is best described in Peter's own words:

"I’m obsessive. All my life, when something interested me, I became obsessed with it. I learned all I could about it. I lived it! . . . I’ve been obsessive about food as long as I can remember. I am now obsessive with French cookery - its preparation, materials, history, politics, and culture".

To learn more why not visit the à la carte web site - click here

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