Well, if you read about my Christmas meltdown earlier, here is a follow-up report on making oeufs en gelee. An etsy potter from Australia wrote to me at the time that she was interested enough to “google” it to see what this dish was all about.
Apparently, it’s a traditional first course dish served in France and England from what little is available online. A photograph of a big glass bowl filled with jellied consomme with eggs suspended in it, a pile of toast and butter beside it stayed in my memory from Roald and Liccy Dahl’s book called, “Memories of Food at Gipsy House.” I think it was Roald’s own words that imprinted it into my mind:
“R.D. To me this is the most beautiful and delicious dish, but it is difficult to make well. If you can succeed in having the eggs not only soft-boiled inside but also separately suspended in the jelly, and yet not having the jelly too firm, then you have achieved the miracle.”
Okay: achieving miracles. It sure didn’t feel like that when I attempted to peel eight small eggs after having boiled them the allotted time. The shells kept sticking even though I had plunged them into cold water after removing them from the boiling water. The insides were also too runny. So, there went the first batch of eggs! I had also taken out my old beat-up copy of Julia Child‘s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” volume one in which she very helpfully described on page 113 some aspects of the “mystery” that goes into making the consomme turn out just right: you have to chill and test small batches of your consomme cum gelatin mix to see if it jells up properly–not rubbery and not too soft. My little test plate wasn’t jelling as fast as I wanted it to. Meanwhile, the phone rang and a voice asked me where was I for a chiropractor adjustment?–which had somehow slipped my mind while peeling the first batch of eggs.
So, I layered the broth into a Tupperware jello mold (see photo above) and put it in the fridge while I boiled up a second batch of eggs, leaving them to boil for a minute longer this time, plunging them into cold water afterwards. Then we ate supper: carryout Chinese. Afterwards, I peeled the eggs carefully and they seemed okay this time. I dried them off and slipped them into the mold, and then put fresh springs of tarragon around them. Added more consomme mixture that had chilled in an ice filled pie pan and then put it back in the fridge. An hour later after the third batch of consomme had jelled (this time firmer than the rest for some reason), I broke it up and spooned it onto the remaining room left in the mold, hoping that this jelly on the bottom would hold the thing together. Put the lid on firmly and set it in the fridge.
It looks like this mysterious, luminous pale brown concoction with eggs suspended, tarragon leaves barely visible.
At this point, I’m just glad that oeufs en gelee are now in the fridge and ready to bring up to serve as a first course with toast, butter, a little fresh ham and cornichons. I’m not so naive as to think that it will actually taste that great–although I am still hopeful.
I think the important thing for me was doing it because I was enraptured by Roald Dahl‘s experience and description of this dish. And besides, who wouldn’t want to make a try at performing miracles during this time of year?