It all started with a book. A whimsically illustrated French children’s book about cooking, called La cuisine est un jeu d’enfants, or “Cooking is Child’s Play”. First published in French in 1963, a version that included both the original French and the English translation was published by Random House in 1965. I first stumbled upon this book a few years ago and have been buying up used copies wherever I can find them, as gifts for my young friends who like to cook.
The recipes are mostly pretty standard classical French recipes, like quiche Lorraine and croque monsieur. What’s funny is to see recipes like coq au vin and stuffed veal in a recipe book clearly intended for children. I grew up on Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls: Facsimile Edition, and I can assure you that there was nothing in that book as complicated as what was expected of the children reading “La Cuisine” 50 years ago.
That said, in this book there is a fairly simple and intriguing recipe for “egg nest” or “nid d’oeuf”. Unlike most egg nest recipes with which you may be familiar, the ones with the egg filling the hole in a slice of bread, this recipe doesn’t use bread, but has you separate the egg, whip up the egg white, form a nest with the whipped egg white, and bake it with the yolk in the middle. Oh yes, and some grated Gruyere cheese is folded into the whipped egg whites. More cheesy structure for the nest.
3 ingredients—egg, salt, and Gruyere. The hardest part is whipping the egg white. And the result? We loved it. Now we only tried it with Gruyere, but I suspect that it would be just as good with freshly grated Parmesan.
Egg Nests Recipe
- 2 eggs
- 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt (a pinch of salt per egg)
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 Preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle. Line a roasting pan, or baking sheet that can take high temperatures without warping, with parchment paper or Silpat.
2 Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Make sure there are no little pieces of egg yolk in the whites or you will have difficulty getting the whites to beat properly. It helps if you are making more than one egg nest to keep each egg yolk in a separate prep bowl.
3 Place the egg whites in a very clean mixer bowl (any residual oil in the mixer bowl will keep the egg whites from whipping up properly). Add an eighth of a teaspoon of salt to the egg whites. Beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment in a mixer (or using a hand mixer), starting on low speed and then slowly increasing to high speed, until stiff peaks form.
4 Gently fold in the grated Gruyere cheese, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
5 Create two mounds of the egg white mixture on the lined baking sheet. Form the mounds so they look like nests, with indentations in the centers.
6 Place in the oven for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, open the oven, pull out the rack with the egg white nests, and gently add an egg yolk to the center of each nest. Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for 3 more minutes.
Yield: Serves 2.