Green Beans and Onsen Tomago Eggs

green beans, France, cooking classes, Normandy, Paris

Today we made something I love, a simple braise of green beans which are so vivid and flavorful right now they should be illegal, topped with an egg that’s prepared in the onsen tomago method.  The student who was working on the dish muttered under her breath – in a sweet way – “Why am I cutting these beans so small?” as she doggedly sliced, on an angle, the thickish beans into 1/4 -inch lengths. 

Why Tiny Size?

One quarter inch isn’t really a length of bean but more of a chunk, which is why I specify it be cut on the bias, to give it a certain flair. Why did I specify that tiny size? I have a good reason. All too often, green beans are plopped on a plate in all their mis-aligned, curved, maybe slightly bumpy glory and they may taste good, but they aren’t appetizing, so I specify they be cut into uniform size. And the pieces need to be small, because I want them to be a bed for the egg, and I want them to give as much flavor as they have. Cutting any vegetable small encourages this.

More Flavor

I laughed and explained all this and the student, who had a mound of perfectly cut beans on one side of her, and a mound of uncut beans on the other, was convinced and she undertook her task with new vigor.

Once cut, she braised the beans in water, bay, thyme, and olive oil, until they were tender allt he way through but sill had a pretty green color. She tasted a piece and her eyes literally lit up. “I eat beans, but I’ve never had any this good,” she said.

Eggs and Onsen Tomago

As for the eggs, they come from Paulette who, with her husband Simon, have chickens that have the run of their enormous garden. The shells of her eggs are so beautiful I almost hate to crack them, but I do, for everything from cakes to cookies to soufflés to those we’re about to cook to put atop the beans.

I ran across onsen tomago eggs at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, whose name I honestly can’t remember. But I will never forget the silken egg, and I made it the minute I returned to my kitchen. It’s a method from Japan where rope baskets of eggs are submerged into hot springs that are about 70F; 21C, which isn’t very hot, for up to 40 minutes. The white turns to velvet; the yolk is firm yet runny, a texture impossible to describe. The whole is, to me, simply amazing.

You Don't Need Hot Springs

I don’t have a hot spring so I follow a method that calls for putting a cold egg into almost boiling water for 12 minutes, then plunging it into ice water for about 7 minutes. You need a medium egg (about 1-3/4 ounce;50g) for it work perfectly. A large egg is delicious cooked this way too, but the white can be runny in spots.

The result of this egg, though, is at the first touch of a fork it dissolves into a richly flavored and textured sauce that bathes the already incredible beans in richness.

The recipe follows. Try it out; keep trying it out. The eggs are just the slightest bit unpredictable though always delicious, and I risk this with my students because they come to me for the tried and true, and the unexpected.

egg, onsen tomago, France, cooking classes


For the Eggs:
4 large eggs

For the green beans:
2 pounds (1kg) green beans, trimmed and cut on the bias into ¼-inch thick pieces
2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (125ml) water
2 fresh bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Chive blossoms – optional garnish


1. To cook the eggs, heat a large saucepan three-fourths filled with water over high heat until the water is at a rolling boil.
2. Remove the pan from the heat, wait 1 minute, and place the cold eggs carefully into the water. Do not cover, keep the eggs separate, and don’t move the pan. Set the timer for 12 minutes.
3. Prepare a bowl of ice water. After the eggs have sat in the hot water, transfer them to the ice water and let sit for 8 to 10 minutes.
4. While the eggs are “cooking”, cook the green beans. Place the olive oil, the water, and the herbs in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the green beans. Turn the green beans and shake the pan so they are coated with the oil and water mixture and when the water and oil come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the green beans until they are nearly tender, about 9 minutes.
5. When the green beans are nearly tender through, remove the cover and cook them, shaking the pan and stirring gently, until any liquid in the pan evaporates.
6. Transfer an equal amount of green beans to each of four plates, arranging them in a flat circle. Carefully break an egg atop each plate of green beans, holding it close to the green beans and letting it fall right into the center of the green beans. Drizzle each egg with a bit of olive oil, then garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.

4 to 6 servings

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