Friday, May 8, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Mollet Eggs with Steamed Asparagus

Few dishes say spring better than eggs and asparagus. Finding a copy of Jacques Pépin's The Art of Cooking, Volume 1 (first published in 1987) for a few dollars at a used bookstore, I had to snap it up. Paging through it, the recipe for Mollet Eggs with Stewed Asparagus immediately caught my eye. Nothing makes me happier than a runny egg yolk, especially when it's put over one of my favorite veggies and a little raft of fried bread. Make the asparagus, the egg, and the bread all locally grown and/or produced and it's even better. A simple and lovely dish perfect for brunch, lunch or even a light dinner.

Jacques says, "Mollet ("soft" in French) indicates eggs that have approximately the consistency of a poached egg except that they are cooked in the shell like a hard cooked egg. About 3 1/2 to 4 minutes of cooking in simmering water is long enough, as very often the eggs are peeled and reheated at serving time. They are a bit delicate to shell and it is best done under cold water.

Jacques and I have cooked mollet eggs together before in one of my favorite all-time tomato soups (Tomato Chowder with Mollet Eggs). He is not kidding when he says that they are delicate to shell and when I made the chowder, I had a hard time getting a perfectly, or even decently-smooth exterior. (Thankfully tomato soup makes an excellent cover for pock marks from the shell removal.) I was determined to do them better this go-round. 

I made several changes to Chef Pépin's recipe. Rather than "stew" the asparagus in water and butter as the recipe instructed, I simply steamed my asparagus (omitting that butter) and cooking it until just tender-crisp. (I did keep the butter in the bread--nothing says heaven like pan-fried bread in butter.) ;-)

The other big change was in the plating. Since the cookbook was released in 1987, the plating seemed dated to me and, if I am going to spring for local asparagus, I want to enjoy its flavor and beauty without chopping it all up. This plating felt more like me.

Chef Pépin's recipe was long and full of excellent techniques but to simplify, I omitted much of the detail and just typed in the basics below.

Mollet Eggs with Steamed Asparagus 
Adapted from Jacques Pépin's The Art of Cooking, Volume 1
(Serves 6)

24 asparagus spears (green, white or a combination)
6 slices bread
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 large eggs

Gently peel the asparagus starting approximately one-third of the way down the stalk or where the skin is fairly fibrous. Once peeled, break off and discard the fibrous larger ends and set the prepared asparagus aside until you are ready to cook it. 

Trim the crusts off of bread and then use a cookie cutter to cut a small round into the center of each piece. This will secure the egg and prevent it from rolling. Place the 1 tablespoon of butter and the tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet and when hot, cook the bread slices until nicely browned on each side.

Meanwhile, place the eggs in a pan of hot, not boiling water and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Lift each egg from the ice water and crack the shells then place the eggs back into the ice water; this will make them easier to peel. While still slightly warm, shell the eggs. (Note: Hold the shelled eggs in the ice water to stop the cooking if you are not using them right away. They can then be lowered back into boiling water for about 1 minute to heat when you are ready to use them.)

For Jacques's stewed asparagus, cut stalks on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a single layer in a saucepan. Add water and salt, bring to a boil and cook until just tender (about 2-3 minutes for white asparagus and 1-2 minutes for green--depending on the thickness). Add (3 Tbsp!) butter in pieces and cook over high heat until the butter mixes with the remaining water and forms an emulsion. Set aside. (Note: I left my asparagus in stalks and lightly steamed them for about 2 1/2 minutes as they were very thick, then dipped them into the ice water to stop the cooking and retain the bright green color. I then drained them before plating)   

To plate: Arrange the asparagus on individual plates (if stewing, include some of the liquid). Place the bread ring in the middle of the plate and position an the egg in the hollowed out center. Cut a piece of asparagus into this strips to decorate the top. (Deb says, "Sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper!) ;-)

A shot of the dish before the egg was sliced into.

Notes/Results: Simple ingredients that come together in a delicious dish. My mollet eggs were easier to peel this time I believe because I more thoroughly cracked the shells before putting them back in the ice water, and because I peeled them in the cold water. I cooked my eggs about 4 minutes and while still there was plenty of runny yolk, next time I will cook them about 30 seconds less--the more oozy the better in my book. I will definitely make this again and continue to perfect my mollet eggs.

This post is being linked to the L'Oeuf Incroyable! (The Incredible Egg!)--with Jacques Pépin dishes that feature or include the wonderful egg. You can see the egg-inspired dishes the other participants made by checking out the picture links on the post.

Happy Aloha Friday!


  1. I have to try eggs this way! It looks gorgeous and delicious!

  2. Haven't heard that term. Thanks for the education. You have me craving a nice runny egg.

  3. Oh Deb, the 1987 picture of this plated made me giggle.That is definitely some rather antiquated plating. Your plating is much prettier! I wanted to make Mollet Eggs Florentine this week but decided I better not because it was so indulgent! This version would have been a perfect compromise. Never gave thought to how hard it would be to peel the soft boiled eggs though - yikes! I wonder if salt or baking soda or vinegar in the cooking water would help to loosen that shell. It works when I hardboil my eggs. Hmm..

  4. Now this is another interesting way to cook eggs! :D

  5. This looks to be absolutely delicious Deb!
    I am glad to be part of this week's challenge too!
    Thanks for continuing to inspire me!

  6. Love asparagus with eggs. It's just so filling and satisfying. These look great.

  7. Grace-Life can be simpleMay 14, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    I'm sure Jacques will smile at you with approval in your kitchen upon seeing this. It's such a lovely rendition of his. Yummy!!


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