Eggs in aspic come in many forms in France. The most common is simply made by moulding poached eggs in ramekins lined with a thin slice of cooked ham or smoked salmon. At Le Cordon Bleu, our chef developed a multi-coloured version of this traditional starter by arranging a layer of prawns in the mould, setting a poached egg on top, and finishing with a little freshly chopped tomato. When turned out, the eggs are plump and white under a "flower" of prawns, nestling on a bright red bed of tomato with an appetizing shine inside their transparent aspic casing.
1.5 litres (2.75 pints) chicken stock
175g (6 oz) lean minced beef
1 leek (greenpart only), chopped
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped chervil or parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 egg whites
30 ml (6 tsp) powdered gelatine
60 ml (2 fl oz) cold water
60 ml (2 fl oz) port wine
90 ml (6 tbsp) white vinegar
Chervil or parsley, leaves
60 prawns, cooked and peeled
1 medium tomato, skinned, seeded and diced, and well drained
EQUIPMENT: Twelve 100 ml (3.5 fl oz) oval moulds
Chill the moulds.
Prepare the aspic: first clarify the stock, using the minced beef, leek, chervil, salt, pepper and egg whites. While the stock is clarifying, sprinkle the gelatine over the water and leave to soften for about 5 minutes. Five to 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the gelatine to the stock through the hole in the soft crust. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and then strain as instructed for a clarified stock. Cool to tepid and add the port.
Set the bowl of clarified stock over a larger bowl of crushed ice and cool, stirring occasionally. The stock will begin to thicken and set as it cools. Watch the aspic carefully and when it becomes syrupy but not yet set, pour some into each mould to a depth of about 3 mm (1/8 inch). Transfer the moulds to the refrigerator and chill for about 15 minutes, until firm. Remove the bowl of aspic from the ice so that it will not set completely. If it does set before you are ready to use it again, put it over a bowl of warm water until it melts, then chill again until syrupy as described above. The aspic should be chilled to the point of setting each time you use it.
Poach the eggs: bring 2 litres (3.5 pints) water to the boil in a large frying pan. Add the vinegar and then reduce the heat to maintain the water at a slow simmer. Fill a bowl with cold water. Break an egg into a cup and slide it gently into the pan, gathering the white around the yolk with a slotted spoon. Repeat with 1 or 2 more eggs, depending on the size of your pan (the eggs must not be crowded and the water must maintain a gentle simmer). Poach for about 3 minutes, until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft to the touch. Transfer the poached eggs to the bowl of cold water. Repeat to poach all the eggs. Remove the eggs from the water and drain on paper towels. Trim the eggs into oval shapes. Chill in refrigerator.
Remove the moulds from the refrigerator when the aspic has set, and place 1 chervil leaf in the centre of each aspic layer. Arrange 5 prawns around each leaf, fanned out to resemble a flower. Set a chilled poached egg on top. Carefully spoon enough aspic into each mould to surround and barely cover the eggs. Return the moulds to the tefrigerator for about 15 minutes to set the aspic. Then sprinkle each with a little tomato and cover with a final layer of aspic. Chill for at least 1 hour. Reserve and chill any remaining aspic for garnishing.
To serve, dip the blade of a small knife in hot water. Dry it and slide the warm blade around the edge of each mould. Invert the moulds onto a round plate. Garnish with chervil leaves. Arrange lettuce leaves around the plate. Chop any remaining aspic and sprinkle it between the eggs.