Egg in Aspic

Oeuf en Gelée

[Egg in Aspic]

And today, let me introduce you to one of the quirky wonders of old-school French charcuterie: the Oeuf en Gelée.

It’s a simple preparation, really: a fresh egg, expertly poached into a plump oval, nested in an amber casing of veal aspic, and supported by a few benevolent companions — here, a strip of cooked ham, a bit of chopped parsley, a small piece of tomato and a slice of cornichon.

I am well aware that this may not seem like such a compelling idea, and may even put off more than one aspic-shy eater. I myself turned my nose up at these eggs for years, dismissing them as an obsolete oddity, quite literally congealed in time.

But that was before I actually tasted them (and before I realized you can’t just decide you don’t like something before you’ve even tried it). Maxence had been a long-time fan — it was always a treat when his mother got him one for lunch — and when we started living and food-shopping together in Paris, he persuaded me to give them a chance. I was pleasantly surprised, and quick to join him in his devotion.

First, there is the simple joy of freeing the egg from its thin plastic mold, running a knife around the aspic, squeezing the supple sides of the cup, and plopping its contents onto your plate. Secondly, you get to cut through the whole thing with your fork, rupturing the yolk and forming a golden puddle that just begs to be dabbed with a piece of fresh baguette. And then, as you eat your way through the egg, each bite reveals clean and fresh flavors, the glistening smoothness of the aspic responding marvellously well to the rich velvet of the yolk.

Step inside any charcuterie, throw a sweeping glance at the selection, and you will quickly spot the disciplined formation of oeufs en gelée, neatly lined up on a refrigerated shelf. Each shop will have its own shapes and formulas — this one has dill and a sparkling sprinkle of pink peppercorns — and chances are you will also be able to choose from different models. A popular variation features smoked salmon, but I largely prefer the more humble ham version.

I have never attempted to make my own, simply because they are so readily available here and making your own aspic is a tad time-consuming (I recoil at the thought of using instant aspic). But if you feel like embarking on the adventure, there is a recipe in French on Marmiton, and Julia Child also offers one in her famous book — although I should warn you that Julie Powell did not have much success with it, and even calls it her worse disaster.

[The egg pictured above comes from the Michel Langlois charcuterie, at 20 rue Lepic in the 18th, which I highly recommend for the quality and price of their products.]

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  • Your words make this plastic-looking, bone-marrow, sliced-ham-used-as-a ribbon, egg-thingy sound good enough to eat—you are right I should try it before sticking out my tongue, whenever I see them for sale in France I must admit I am attracted to them, perfect little packages….but I would rather eat the words you wrote!

  • Monica

    The picture is beautiful, and I think you’ve really convinced me to give them a try! Tasting, not preparing my own. And assuming they may be found in Chicagoland. I might wait a tad, though, as I’m in my runny-yolk-is-yucky phase lately.

  • You’ve made me look at oeufs en gelée in a whole new light. I’d read Julie Powell’s disaster in her blog, which had reinfored my own predisposition against them… I’d never dared try one, but I’ll take the plunge next time I come across one!

  • what a beauty!

  • Although I do agree that one must try a food item before deciding against it, I must say I just can not get myself to feel open minded about this one! Though I do love the picture, and think it would be a pretty item to have sitting out at a dinner party! So I at least accept it as an art form!

  • I too must admit to stick my tongue out to these wobbly thingys…

    However, this oeuf en gelee looks like a piece of art!
    It reminds me of the japanese cuisine: perfect presentation of each individual ingredient

  • i must admit that whilst the picture looks pretty the idea of eggs in aspic doesn’t really appeal, although your post has cetainly inspired me to give them a go.

  • Devika

    I am intrigued by the fact that the yolk stays liquid. That really makes the oeuf en gelee more appetizing. It must be like bread, made fresh everyday. I’ll have to seek one out at try it.

  • Maybe I’m weird, but that looks really good to me. I actually like most aspic, and I love eggs. The thought of combining the two is distinctly intriguing. But the work, the work! Sadly, this sort of thing is NEVER available in Boston.

  • Your blog is extraordinaire!- I was just transported 16 years ago when I was in Paris doing a stage at Fauchon, and I my tasks consisted of doing all the Oeufs en Gelée for the store. Merci!

  • What is aspic anyway? One comment mentioned bone marrow, is that what the gel is made of?

  • Your papounet

    “A clear jelly typically made of stock and gelatin and used as a glaze or garnish or to make a mold of meat, fish, or vegetables.” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition)

    “savory jelly based on fish or meat stock used as a mold for meats or vegetables”
    (Wordnet / Princeton)

    For a quick (and usually profitable) search on words, I recommend this online meta-dictionary :

    Of course, there’s probably much more to say about aspic that you won’t find in dictionaries… but hopefully on this blog !

  • lee

    I thought perhaps this was from your old-school, state sponsored cooking class. What ever happened with that? Did I somehow miss the reports?

  • I would love these! Any meat, veg or eggs in aspic are very tasty. drizzled with some vinaigrette and freshly chopped onion. I will try to make these at home if possible.

  • Another aspect to aspic. -> San Francisco in Jell-O an amazing creation!

  • Joan

    in the same way my sister doesn’t understand chocolate coated nuts (of any variety), I sort of don’t get the aspic thing..suppose because when I was young, jelly was a dessert..a sweet my head has to do an about face as it were…

    I’ve a friend who was born in France..she lives nearby…and boy oh boy does she loveeeeeeeee the aspic scene!

    delightful photo Clotilde :-)

  • I like very much this entree. It is simple e beautiful.

  • This looks gorgeous to me, and sounds wonderful. If I thought I could get anyone else to eat it too, I’d be willing to try making it, at least once.
    But judging from the tenet of the comments here, I’d probably have trouble getting anyone to try it, much less admire my efforts. And I am not quite sufficiently self-motivated to undertake a project like this solely for my own satisfaction.
    Eggs in aspic are definitely not available in Pittsburgh shops. Guess I’ll have to wait til I can come to Paris.

  • It would make a gorgeous glass paperweight as Julie proposes. I’d buy it in a second. Even better I’d like to see it as one of those windup toys like the sushi that scoot accross the floor :) There was a very brief period where high-end New York chefs were captivated by JELL-O & were creating like crazy with the stuff. I think it lasted maybe a nano-second…Thanks Clotilde for the Julie/Julia Project link!

  • Kim

    Is there anywhere to get this in the U.S.? I live in NYC and feel sure there must be a charcuterie nearby with oeufs en gelee. I can’t wait to try one!

  • I’m from Nashville, Tennessee and I see this little egg in the same way as I see SOUSE (also known as head cheese*), which as a little girl (a really little girl), I used to run past in the grocery store. While this egg is what I consider a more “civilized” version of souse, and I do like to taste non-meat versions of souse, I’m just…always scared! I know it sounds really infantile, but it is in fact an infantile memory/scar!!!

    I would try it, definitely, but I’d be shaking a lot!

    *It’s made by using all the scraps from the slaughterhouse, so pig’s snout, feet, etc. are boiled then set up to chill in aspic and then served as sliced “luncheon meat”.

  • bob

    Ah, la jolie Clotilde … pour 10 secondes de passage dans le poste ce soir sur M6 (sur le Fooding) :))) C’était vraiment bon, ce que vous mangiez ??? :-D

  • Your description should accompany all menus that contain this dish. It’s a beautiful and tasty concoction, but many Americans shy away from the “en gelee” part, for some reason. Thanks for your lovely description!

  • That egg thingie is so wonderfully quirky I’m definitely going to try to make one :D Super beautiful picture, too.

  • Bux

    Oeuf en gellée, an icon, perhaps the icon of French cuisine for us. Common really, in Paris and most French charcuteries, but rare in the US. For both those reasons, I suppose, one day long ago, we decided we had to make them here in NYC. It’s not all that difficult unless one is as hard nosed as we were and insists on clear flavorful aspic made from from scratch. We had a lot of time in those days and started with veal bones. You don’t really need to do that, but it was an experience and an accomplishment. I wouldn’t do it again with, or without, gelatin unless I had some very good farm eggs and I think I’d substitute some good jambon cru for the boiled ham. It’s a very simple dish and like most simple dishes, depends on good ingredients.

    I don’t really understand people who dedicatedly follow food blogs, yet have issues with so many lovely food stuffs. On the other hand, I love aspic, but hate Jello. It’s the artificial flavors, of course.

  • I just had an oeuf en gelée as part of my mini-tea. YUM!

  • Hillary Davis

    Clotilde, when I miss France the most is when I see pictures like yours of Oeufs en Gelee! In Chamonix one dark stormy afternoon, I spied a window selling miniature ones…..I bought them, drove to the top of a nearby mountain for a view of the snow falling, and devoured the little ones. Surprise. They had exquisite foie gras hidden in their depths….and such a deep flavor I still remember their taste….

  • Helene

    Oeufs en gelée are VERY easy to make. all you need is a can of beef consommé. Once the eggs are poached, place them in individual ramequins (125 ml)and cover with the consommé, then refrigirate for a few hours. one can makes 4. i also eat this with fresh baguette.

    nice blog by the way!!

  • I made some yesterday! I had never even seen oeufs en gelée (they are not available in Switzerland), but I’ve been having this fantasy of tucking into one of these wonderful creations ever since I’ve read what you wrote about them. Quite some work and they don’t look as perfect as the one pictured in your blog – but that’s the beauty of home cooking (or so I console myself). We’ll have them tonight with pommes de terre en robe de champs and a crunchy salad. I can’t wait… Thank you for the great idea!

  • liz

    after reading about the experience of julie Powell and ouefs en gelee I decided I needed more research. Your description sounds delightful & I may actually make one of these sometime soon. I love the strange & wonderful creativity of the french!

  • adam H. Graham

    oh god, I love these! Discovered them at Les Halles Lyon a few years back and have had trouble finding them in NYC. Anyone? Was in Grasse, France this weekend and found them at a small market in town, but they were in round containers and made without the ham or cornichon, just some chives. Recession versions? The egg was so deliciously soft boiled. I brought home a half dozen and added some smoked salt to them for a perfect breakfast.

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