A Star Chef's Recipe for True Romance
At Manhattan’s exalted seafood restaurant Le Bernardin, chef Eric Ripert’s eight-course Valentine’s menu features seared langoustine with truffled crème fraîche and a luxe surf and turf of grilled escolar with seared wagyu in a red wine peppercorn sauce. It’s $230 per person; $395 with wine pairings—and it’s been sold out since they announced it. Valentine’s Day is, after all, the biggest night, after Mother's Day, for eating out in America, with some 25 percent of the population taking part. (Anecdotally, it’s unofficially the biggest break-up night of the year, too.)
But why risk it? True romance is about the morning after, anyway.
Here, Ripert is instructive, too: He has devised a low-stress, personal alternative for Valentine’s (he considers it his "go to") or really any morning you have a bit of extra time for love.
He makes his wife Sandra an exceedingly simple breakfast in bed, a version of the classic French Oeufs en Cocotte, or baked eggs. The recipe requires just a handful of ingredients and a few pieces of equipment: a knife, a cheese grater, and some ramekins. Even a regular oven is optional; Ripert created the recipe specifically to be made in a toaster oven. 1 The chef, an early toaster-oven skeptic, was won over, so much so that he created the Get Toasted series for his Emmy-winning Avec Eric TV show.
The beauty of this baked egg recipe is that it lends itself to multiple variations and tweaks.
If she likes runny eggs, baking time is closer to 10 minutes; if the opposite, increase the baking time until the yolks are well set. You can add ingredients she loves such as chopped tomatoes or artichoke hearts, or sautéed sliced mushrooms; you can use a different melting cheese or add cooked pancetta or bacon in place of the ham. You can also add more cream (Ripert recommends double the amount so it’s extra rich). And if you have a winter truffle on hand, feel free to shave it on top for the benefit of both of you.
Best of all, it's easy to prep the ingredients ahead of time, sneak away for a second to “brew some coffee,” and come back a superstar. You can thank us, and Ripert, later.
Eggs en Cocotte With Kale
1 cup finely shredded stemmed kale (about 6 leaves)
½ cup diced Paris ham or cooked pancetta (2 ounces)
2 tbsp. heavy cream
2 large eggs
Truffle salt or sea salt
Grating of nutmeg
½ cup grated Gruyère cheese (2 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Divide the shredded kale between two 6-ounce shallow ramekins. Sprinkle the diced ham on top. Pour the cream over the ham and crack 2 eggs into each ramekin. Season with the salt or truffle salt and pepper and a light grating of nutmeg. Finally sprinkle the shredded Gruyère over the eggs.
Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the yolks are just set and the eggs jiggle slightly when the ramekins are shaken. Serve with the baguette.
To see more of Eric Ripert, check out the Season Three debut of Chef's Table on Netflix on Feb. 17, where he'll appear in an episode about the Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan. And look for a paperback version of his book 32 Yolks, available in March.