Make a spectacular impression with your Easter brunch table
For many of us, Easter is the perfect spring holiday; a celebration of rebirth and a beloved time for families to gather together around the table. I'm sure many people are reading this and thinking about what to cook for a holiday brunch, so I'd like to offer one of my favorite classic recipes for the most symbolic Easter ingredient in the Western world since medieval times: the egg.
Many parents will be dying eggs for children to hunt for and gather in their baskets. Others will buy chocolate or other candy eggs. But for cooks, the most important matter of the day is how to prepare eggs for Easter brunch.
To my thinking, the ability to prep at least partly in advance is one of the most important considerations for the holiday meal. After all, you're probably cooking for more than the usual number of people, and you want some ease that will allow you more time to enjoy your guests. That's why so many people make savory or sweet egg-enriched bread puddings that they can assemble in advance and bake at the last minute; or eggy recipes like quiches or frittatas that are as delicious at room temperature as they are hot.
But I'd like to suggest another approach; one so old-fashioned that it may seem surprisingly "new" to you and your guests: a preparation called "eggs en cocotte" in French, or "coddled eggs" in traditional English cookbooks. The term "en cocotte" simply means "in a covered baking dish," which certainly describes the basics of the following recipe, in which eggs are cooked with a touch of cream in individual ramekins lined with smoked salmon.
You may prefer the term "coddle," though, which seems especially well-suited to this method. As you probably know, it means to be overprotective or overindulgent of someone or something. And that is certainly how the eggs are treated here, gently baked in an easily assembled water bath that helps them come out with the whites perfectly set and the yolks still fluid in a delicious, custardy way. Doesn't that sound perfect for your Easter table?
Even more appropriate to the season is the recipe's sorrel sauce, which you prepare in advance, keep warm and spoon over the eggs at serving time. A specialty of springtime, and easy to find right now in well-stocked supermarkets and at farmers' markets, the sorrel leaf has a light, refreshingly tart flavor; and the sauce so delicate it literally melts into a puree on contact with hot butter.
Now, imagine the delicious results: perfectly cooked eggs with firm whites and bright yellow yolks; pale pink salmon; and a vivid light green sauce. It's the ideal combination of colors for your Easter table!
CODDLED EGGS WITH SMOKED SALMON AND SORREL
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 pound (250 g) smoked salmon, cut into slices1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) heavy cream
12 sorrel leaves, stems removed
8 large eggs
Toasted good-quality white bread, for serving
Coat the bottom and sides of eight 4-ounce (125-mL) ramekins with 1 teaspoon butter each. Place them on a tray and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Line the bottom and sides of each ramekin with the smoked salmon, distributing it evenly among the ramekins. Season the inside of each ramekin with some black pepper to taste. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cream into the bottom of each ramekin. Return the ramekins to the tray and chill until ready to use.
About half an hour before you plan to serve the eggs, preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).
Meanwhile, cut the sorrel leaves crosswise into julienne strips about 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide. In a nonreactive saute pan, melt all but 3 tablespoons of the remaining butter over medium-high heat; add the sorrel and saute for 1 minute. The leaves will melt into a puree. Stir in the remaining cream and simmer, stirring frequently, until the volume reduces by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm.
Bring a saucepan or kettle of water to a boil.
Carefully break an egg into each ramekin. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of a deep baking pan large enough to hold the ramekins comfortably. Place the ramekins in the pan, evenly spaced. Cut eight squares of aluminum foil large enough to cover each ramekin and smear one side of each with the remaining butter. Cover each ramekin with the foil, buttered side down.
Slide out the middle rack of the oven partway and place the baking pan on the rack. Carefully pour the boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins; then, carefully slide the rack and pan into the oven and close the oven door.
Bake the eggs for 10 to 12 minutes until the whites are set but the yolks still look soft when you lift the foil on one.
Carefully slide the rack partway out of the oven and gently lift out the baking pan and remove each ramekin, placing it on a kitchen towel to absorb the moisture from its underside. Remove the foil, transfer the ramekins to serving plates, and carefully spoon the sorrel sauce around the edges inside each ramekin, surrounding but not completely concealing the yolks. Serve immediately, accompanied by toast.(c) 2020 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.