For a couple of months now, I've bought most of the eggs I use in my kitchen from a farmer for whom his chickens' health and what they eat are the number-one priority. The chickens can roam freely and have the option to go outdoors 365 days a year. These chickens can smell the first greens of spring, feel the warm summer sun on their skin, watch the days get shorter in fall, and experience the beauty of the white Nordic winters. And you can taste all of that in the eggs. The yolks are deep yellow in color and the texture is creamy; they're the best eggs I've eaten.
I'm happy that I've found a product that matches my idea of ethical and sustainable living and consumption, tastes delicious, and is an excellent example of the farm-to-table movement. My money goes directly to the farmer which is, as I believe, the best scenario for both the consumer and the producer. And you know, happy chickens.
For over a decade, I've only bought organic eggs or, better still, eggs from a local, small farmer where I can be sure that the chickens are being ethically raised and held. Standards of how chickens must be held to be called "organic" or "free-range" vary from one country to another, and I encourage you to do some research on what those terms really mean should you be interested in where your eggs come from. Naturally, the same applies to all animal products and, well, to produce in general.
Be interested, care, ask.
If you live in Southern Finland and are interested in ethically raised, fresh eggs, join the Facebook group and check out the dates. The farmer drives around Southern Finland on a regular basis selling his products.
After my love letter to eggs, I should come up with a dish that puts them into good use, right? So today, I'm sharing a recipe for Oeufs en cocotte, one of the fanciest sounding yet easy and quick to prepare dishes for breakfast or brunch. I mean, we could talk about baked eggs but who wants to call them by that name, especially when they have such a fancy sounding French name? This is a dish that makes your guests look at you in awe, sing an ode to the beauty of eggs, and ask for the recipe. You think I'm exaggerating? Try it yourself.
I first stumbled upon this French breakfast classic on either Béa's or Aran's blog and have been an avid fan of this luscious dish ever since. Oeufs en cocotte can be adapted to one's liking and the season. The possibilities are endless! Look what's in your fridge and get inspired by the produce of the season. Last week, I had spinach which I wanted to use up. The idea of tomatoes crossed my mind, so I grabbed a glass of sun-dried tomatoes for a dose of sunshine (cause fresh tomatoes are obviously not in season). Créme fraîche works really nice, especially during the colder months as it makes the dish extra creamy and comforting, so I decided to use some.
The result was a lovely breakfast; one that I couldn't wait to share with you.
Oeufs en Cocotte with Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large handful (1 lightly packed cup) spinach, washed
4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp crème fraîche
4 tsp heavy cream
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a bit of finely sliced scallions
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Butter or oil two ovenproof ramekins.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the crushed garlic and spinach until spinach starts to wilt. Add a pinch of salt and the sun-dried tomatoes. Remove skillet from heat. Discard the garlic glove.
Put a layer of crème fraîche in each ramekin and top with the spinach mixture. Crack an egg in each ramekin. Pour 2 tsp of heavy cream over each egg white avoiding the egg yolks. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Finish with finely sliced scallions.
To make a water bath, put the ramekins in a baking dish. Place the baking dish on the middle rack of the oven. Pour steaming hot water (hot tap water works fine!) into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Serve warm.