Since it’s Easter and eggs are top of mind, I’m reposting a previous article on wonderful eggs in France. “Joyeuses Pâques” to you and yours!
I am always amazed at the food side of Easter in France. Of course, the French plan a big Easter Sunday lunch with family and all kinds of favorite recipes and dishes. But it’s really the Easter chocolate which is astonishing. Every pâtisserie and candy shop is overflowing with chocolate eggs large and small, chocolate bunnies, chocolate bells (in France, their ‘Easter bunny’ is the church bells which bring candy and chocolates back from Rome), chocolate chickens, and so much more, all wrapped with colorful ribbons and bows. As French Affaires’ friend Betty Reiter – Betty was born in France and now lives in Dallas, Texas – puts it, “Childhood memories… We got loads of chickens, fishes, eggs and bells all made out of chocolate and stuffed with more chocolates!” And this is no dime-store candy, my friends. This is great eating chocolate even at your more humble pastry shops. So for Easter in France not only do you do your Sunday lunch market shopping, you do your Easter ‘chocolate shopping’ as well.
But in the extravaganza of French chocolate eggs at Easter, let’s not forget the joys of real French eggs all year long. Eggs in France are fabulous in my opinion – large, flavorful and with deep golden, nearly orange yolks. You can buy wonderful fresh eggs from vendors at weekly farmers’ markets all over France and also from local farms where one lives. This egg vendor and eleveur in Normandy raises his own chickens outdoors – “en plein air” – and is proud of his wares.
Recently, I’ve been craving the French version of deviled eggs, les oeufs mayonnaise. A popular staple on many bistrot and café menus, this cold French starter of hard-boiled eggs comes with a side of homemade mayonnaise and a little bit of salade. Though it may not sound all that interesting, les oeufs mayonnaise is always a surprisingly tasty and satisfying French dish. Not only French eggs but also real mayonnaise make it delectable whether the mayo is served straight up or enhanced with fresh herbs, spices or something else. The other day, I ordered les oeufs mayonnaise at a neighborhood café on the Rue du Bac in Paris. It felt like spring on a plate – and their mayonnaise came flavored with a hint of salty anchovies…miam, miam!
Also delicious were the oeufs mayonnaise served with lettuce spears I had not long ago at the cozy Left Bank bistrot La Fontaine de Mars…
Eggs take center stage in another very French dish, les oeufs en meurette. Originally from Burgundy, this comfort food of eggs poached in rich red wine sauce with shallots or onions and bacon is a classic hot starter on French menus. La Fontaine de Mars offers its own version with a Southwestern French red wine touch.
But of course, there are numerous other French egg dishes that don’t require more particular ingredients such as wine or anchovies. Omelettes in France make a great lunch or an easy dinner at home and are often made with ham and cheese, herbs, mushrooms or other fillings. This nice tender one at Ladurée featured ever-so-pungent truffles. If you’ve never tried the divine egg and truffle combo in France, be sure and put it on your “Must taste” list!
The French also do scrambled eggs remarkably well. Very creamy and almost pudding-like, les oeufs brouillés in France make me never want to eat scrambled eggs anywhere else. The secret is cooking the eggs very slowly using a bain-marie with the water kept just below the boiling point. Of course, French cooks add a bit of cream to the mixture for that perfect taste and texture. Les oeufs brouillés make a great French brunch as shown here in Paris with smoked salmon, shrimp and salade. If you like your scrambled eggs dry, however, you’ll definitely pass on this dish in France.
Not to be left out of any food conversation concerning eggs in France are quiche and soufflés. French quiches are rich and hearty and usually are accompanied by a side salad with vinaigrette. This one from the restaurant at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris was délicieux, although it was hard not be distracted by the exquisite decor of Tiepolo ceiling frescoes, Flemish tapestry wall-hangings and ornate red and gold lamps. And if you are a fan of soufflés in all their egg glory, you can click here for a previous French Affaires’ post on “The Best Soufflés in the Universe.”
The French also use eggs to accent a variety of dishes in their meal repertoire including hard-boiled ones in la salade niçoise or un club sandwich…
There’s also the noteworthy fried egg served on top of a croque madame sandwich – or sometimes on top of certain pizzas in France…
And this traditional bistrot in Versailles served steak tartare with a fresh egg yolk on the side to be mixed in by the diner – moi! – at the table…
We could go on and on about French eggs – we haven’t even mentioned the nice soft-boiled ones the French sometimes eat for breakfast with toast sticks to dip into the yolk or poached ones that show up on top of salads or with steamed asparagus and hollandaise sauce. And exotic egg offerings like duck, goose or quail eggs are pretty readily available in France. This vendor at the Aix-en-Provence market had a basket full of tiny quails’ eggs waiting to be added to a dish or slightly boiled and served with sea salt to be eaten as an appetizer! Bon egg appétit!
French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter
French language tip: A note on the pronunciation of ‘eggs’ in French – one egg or “un oeuf” is pronounced with the ‘f’ as in ’uhn uff’ (sounding almost like ‘enough’ in English). But in the plural “des oeufs,” the ‘f’ is no longer pronounced as in ’dayz euh.’
And for a touch of Easter egg whimsy on French Affaires’ Instagram pages today, April 15, 2017 (French_affaires):
I love these French topiary ‘Easter eggs’ from the lovely gardens of an historic manor house in southwest France. We’ll have aperitifs outdoors in the garden during our French Affaires’ stay there this fall. Just magical. We still have a bit of space on this ‘Fall in Southwest France’ trip if you want to join us. And airfares to France are way down this year! (You can mail us for the trip itinerary and details at: French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com.)