shirred eggs with fresh herbs

I have been to Paris exactly three times.

The first was exactly as it should be, Eighteen, tormented lover who was, in turn, tormenting me. March, dismally gray, and all of our money on a disgusting hotel. We lived on bread only, with the occasional can of tuna fish for sustenance.

The bread was a revelation.

The second was eight weeks later, at the end of the same trip. This time too was exactly as it should be. Lover gone, and I, free and newly tattooed from my wanderings in Eastern Europe, had money this time, and the sun shone every day. A whole week with Sarah, who was staying with a friend who had a bathtub in her kitchen. There was wine that we bought on the corner, and several croissants a day.

As hard as I’ve tried, I’ll tell you those croissants have not been forgotten.

My third visit to Paris was just last year, in the middle of my work trip, when I was, it seemed living someone else’s life for a bit. I was only at the airport, so I wouldn’t normally count it, except that I take my Paris visits where I can get them. And I flew into one airport and had to fly out of another, so technically I did drive through the city. And of course, right before I got on the plane, there was a croissant.

It was hard, with not flake in sight. That one’s not sticking with me, though. It was the exception, I know for sure, and I forgive it entirely.

Despite these three limited experiences, France hangs around here in my own fabrications. Less than original, I know, but more and more, I find myself using France as an adjective rather than a proper noun, a word to emphasize the goodness of things.

I guess the word would be French.

Luckily, I have a few French people around to give it all a bit of authenticity. But either way, on good days these moments of France have their delicious ways of working their way in. When there is good cheese, and it is just at the right temperature, it is French, even if it was made right here in this part of the world. In fact, its localness might make it even more French- because it is local just like if I were in France. The verveine in my garden? French. Children in lovely unstained dresses? (as if!) French! Late dinner after the little ladies have gone to bed? Of course!

Using a country in my vocabulary without adequate experience of the place makes me feel like I’ve never left this country, like I’ve never left this town…like I’m smoking fancy cigarettes in my little kitchen just to bring in the exotic.

My passport has many stamps on it, after all. But sometimes I feel this way anyway. It is August, and I like to yearn a little.

As the moment came again to ponder my weekly summer fest offering, this month of missing led me to France. And for me, the most French place in my whole yard is the middle of my overgrown herb garden. And so I thought about herbs, and about what herbs want–about what I could eat to bring France right here. It had to be simple and effortless, perfect but able to be cooked in heels–chunky Julia heels. It had to be eggs.

Eggs and herbs have the most natural and romantic affinity for each other. Eggs hold herbs with strength and support, and for one like me who will eat fresh herbs all day long directly from the ground when given the chance, eggs are the perfect excuse. Really, I am not one for subtlety when it comes to herbs. And in the hope of really doing it, and really closing that bridge between me and my semi-imaginary France, it had to have cream and butter, and roughly ground salt and pepper. You might know it as shirred eggs, but today, we’ll call it oefs en cocotte.

Oefs en cocotte are eggs baked in ramekins or gratin dishes or any little thing you might use that’s, you know, French. They are sometimes over ham, but here over cream, and showered with a blizzard of herbs.

I know. When it snows it Paris, I’m sure it’s snowing tarragon.

Sometimes they will be baked, but today we’re putting them under the broiler because I am impatient. Impatience is not very French at all, but I’m working on it. More time sitting in that overgrown herb garden of mine should just about do it, I think.

Oefs en Cocotte (or, shirred eggs with fresh herbs)

serves one (while staring off at the distance)

3 eggs (make ’em good ones- it really counts here)

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs- any combination of parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme or basil

1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your broiler to medium high. In a small bowl, combine the herbs, parmesan, and garlic. Crack the eggs into a ramekin or tea cup. (They must be ready so that you can act fast). Put the butter and cream into a large ramekin, small gratin dish or other oven safe dish. Put the dish about six inches under the broiler until the butter and cream starts to bubble and sizzle. Watch it carefully–it will burn quickly. Remove the dish from the oven, and pour the eggs into the hot dish over the bubbling cream, taking care not to break the yolks. Sprinkle the herb mixture over the top, and add a bunch of salt and pepper. Put under the broiler and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked but the yolks are visibly liquid.

And oh, can you believe it… another week of deliciousness? This week we’re talking about herbs, beans and greens, and it’s going to be a good one. Here’s what’s cooking:

White on Rice Couple use fresh mint to make homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Nicole at Pinch My Salt features Green Beans with Balsamic Browned Butter.

Margaret at A Way to Garden stores a year of herb and makes one-pot Farinata a polenta dish with greens.

Food Network UK is on the edge with herbs and greens.

Caroline at the Wright Recipes is cooking up Wax and Butter Bean Herbed Salad.

Jennifer and Mark at Gilded Fork have a virtual garden of recipes

The Best Bean Salads and a French Take on Greens, Beans and Herbs from the Cooking Channel

Top 6 Herbs from Healthy Eats

Leftover Herb Solution (Pesto!) from Allison at Food2

Recipes for The “Other” Summer Greens from the FN Dish

Kelly at Just a Taste –Makes Fresh Herb Ricotta

Caron at San Diego Foodstuff talks about Kale and Feta Empanadas and roasted Romano beans.

And you? What are you bringing to the pot luck this week?


  1. Anonymous says

    Very interesting synchronicity (aren't they all?). I was watching Master Chef & the egg challenge, yesterday. It got me thinking of shirred eggs, and the search engine delivered me to you. Nice recipe.

    The only synchronicity I can return right now are the fish tacos I made. The trick is a bit of oil sprayed on the corn tortillas before they are heated on a dry skillet to a light brown & gentle crunch. Fill with a white fish, sauteed with lime, cumin, & cilantro. Top with cole slaw (I used the summer slaw from Stop & Shop's deli & it was amazing). Perhaps I shall visit again. Peace. Mike

  2. Frances says

    Well. You had me at "shirred eggs," and then it just kept getting better. How I wish I had an overgrown herb garden! (There is oh-so-much mint here, and little else.) And that wee cast iron pan is just perfect.

  3. Sarah says

    My garden is abundant with beans and herbs this time of year! I've realized already that I need to plant more beans next year, if we're going to fulfill my plan of eating them fresh, freezing and canning for winter AND drying for soup beans. This year? Ours have mostly been eaten green. . . . Here's my favorite ways to eat the veggies from this week's theme . . .

    Green Beans with Balsamic Tomatoes, Bacon & Basil

    Mojito Melon Salad featuring fresh mint, lime and honey

    Dilly Beans, perfect for stirring Bloody Mary's!

    And, of course Pesto, which we eat on everything!

    and one of my family's favorite use for pesto is as the base for a quick ranch dressing (I do have two little ones after all!)

    Thank you for hosting Summer Food Fest! I can't wait to see the other contributions!


  4. One Hungry Mama says

    So. Delicious!!

    For this week's Summer Fest theme I posted a round up of Hungry Mama greens and (one) herb recipes. You’ll find Polenta Creamed Spinach, Hand-Held Spinach Pies (w/ a no-cook filling–so easy!), Chard & Mushroom Enchiladas, Kale Chips (really, though, my recipe has a kick that takes these up a notch!) and Tarragon Blackberry Grapefruit pops. Phew!


  5. The Foodie says

    At Flexitarian Foodie, we’re into beans and greens—together, or separately! Here are a few of our favorite related posts:

    Beans & Greens: The Soup

    Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

    Avocado and Black Bean Enchiladas (my favorite!!!)

  6. Aimee @ Simple Bites says

    We adore eggs around here, and eggs with herbs? Yes, please!

    We're chatting about preserving herbs over at Simple Bites today. We're trying to capitalize on summer's abundant crop and store it for winter. In today's post we cover when to pick herbs, drying and freezing.

    Don't miss out on the comments section either where our very savvy readers swap tips. My favorite? A working girl who dried herbs on trays in her car as it sits in the sun all day. Brilliant!

  7. Kate says

    I just tried baked/shirred eggs for the first time two nights ago! I made ours in individual ramekins, with pepper, crumbled feta (marinated in olive oil with basil and oregano), and diced tomatoes. They were quite tasty, and delightfully easy to prepare.

  8. Nicole says

    I've only been to Paris once, and it was only for a short weekend, but it stuck. Thanks for the stories, the herbs, and the eggs.

  9. carondg says

    I love when I learn something new — and this is a way of cooking eggs I haven't done before. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Daniel says

    made this the other day for breakfast, btw – amazing! thanks. it had been some years (since 2005) since I had oeufs coquette in Paris (that time with a savory ragout underneath at La Fontaine du Mars), but I really enjoyed this version. I think I'll add some seared ham next time too.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>