In fact, I’m sure it is. On the other hand, saying “it tasted fine, but wasn’t really worth the effort” doesn’t make a very good headline. But it does neatly sum up this locavore household’s unanimous verdict on our Dark Days Challenge meal this week.
I’ve had Gourmet‘s recipe for Oeufs à la Cantalienne in my clippings for at least three years. The headnotes promise “the soft, yolky flavor of eggs Benedict but without all the hassle”, a notion that appealed to me as I tried to figure out a way to make midweek breakfast-for-dinner more exciting.
We’re pretty handy with eggs, but I think a novice cook especially might find this recipe — which entails buttering ramekins, separating eggs, keeping yolks intact, whipping egg whites, folding cheese, smoothing egg whites, and dolloping créme fraîche — at least as daunting as toasting muffins, poaching eggs, and whisking up a batch of Hollandaise.
When I went looking for other versions of this dish to see where I might have gone astray, I discovered that Molly – whose culinary opinion I trust — loved this recipe, and her photos of her friend Jimmy’s version look much more promising than ours did. I feel terrible casting aspersions based on a single lackluster effort, but on the other hand, this is not a recipe I’m anxious to try again. Faced with the same ingredients, next time out I’m just as likely to make a nice cheese-and-herb omelette to go with our home fries.
So here’s the recipe, in all of its glory. If you try it and like it (or even if you loathe it), I’d can’t wait to hear about it.
Oeufs à la Cantalienne (Baked Eggs with Cheese)
- adapted from Gourmet
Butter, for greasing ramekins
6 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 oz grated Cantal or other mild, semi-firm cow’s cheese (we used Carmody)
6 T créme fraîche
1 T chopped fresh herbs
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter six 8-oz ramekins.
Separate the eggs, carefully sliding whole, unbroken yolks into a small bowl of cold water and putting whites in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream of tartar to the egg whites. Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat whites with until they just hold stiff peaks.
Gently fold half of cheese into the beaten whites, taking care not to deflate the mixture, then divide among ramekins. Smooth the top of the egg whites, then make an indentation in the center of each ramekin.
Using your fingers, carefully remove yolks from water one at a time and put a yolk in each indentation. Stir créme fraîche, and dollop 1 tablespoon on top of each yolk; sprinkle eggs with remaining cheese. Transfer ramekins to a rimmed cookie sheet.
Bake until whites are puffed and pale golden but yolks still jiggle slightly, 10 to 14 minutes. Sprinkle with herbs and serve immediately.
Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: butter
Soul Food Farm, Vacaville: eggs
Guisto’s Vita-Grain, South San Francisco: sea salt
Bellwether Farms, Sonoma: crème fraîche, Carmody cheese
Little Organic Farm, Marin: potatoes (for homefries)
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: onion (for homefries)
…and our own homegrown thyme.
(Exemptions: black pepper, nutmeg, cream of tartar)