Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment. The hashtag #putaneggonit turns up close to 60,000 times on Instagram. Put an egg on a salad of bitter greens, some hash, Brussels sprouts, toast, rice, ramen or a ragout, and that dish's appeal goes up. Way up. Eggs have a knack for making just about anything look farm-to-table: A runny yolk is a shortcut to rusticity and charm.
But the egg can also be refined and ready to take its place next to a flute of Champagne, which is where these coddled eggs were when we celebrated New Year's Eve in Paris.
When you buy eggs at a Parisian cheese shop, they are never refrigerated (once refrigerated, they're "dead," says our French cheesemonger), are most often "bio" or organic, and are labeled with either their "fresh-until" date or, my favorite, their "extra-fresh-until" date. Extra-fresh eggs are the ones you get if you want to eat them raw. I know, because I was once ready to buy them when the cheesemonger asked what I was going to use them for. Hearing that I was provisioning for cake baking, he took the eggs out of my hands and told me to save my money, because "extras" cost a little more.
When I make these coddled eggs in Paris, I spring for extra-fresh eggs; when I make them in America, I buy organic eggs. In both places, lightly cooked, or coddled, eggs are voluptuous, even if they take only 15 minutes to get on the table.
This version of coddled eggs is a little ritzier than the ones I'd make for an everyday meal. They've got sauteed mushrooms and herbs forming a cushion on the bottom of the coddling cup. Whether you put more mushrooms on top of the eggs before you sashay into the dining room is up to you. (I always do.)
What makes coddled eggs so luscious — and as right for breakfast as for the start of a fancy-pants dinner — is their consistency: The whites are just set, and the yolks run the instant the tip of a spoon touches them.
That they welcome other ingredients and flavors just adds to their allure. I love mushrooms and eggs, but eggs go with just about anything, from truffles, caviar and smoked salmon (maybe even all together) to roasted peppers (think Western omelet; also think hot sauce) and soft cheeses.