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May 24, 2006

Egg Poaching

Dominic Armato
I still have a couple of Japan entries backlogged, but tonight's experimentation merited a little break. I think I've finally conquered poached eggs.

Poached eggs are tricky. Trying to get cooked yet tender whites and liquid but not watery yolks while keeping the egg in some semblance of a cohesive mass is a delicate balancing act. Yeah, you can use egg poachers, but I find that the texture is never as light and the presentation is somewhat less than impressive. Back in March, I got pretty good results by taking a minimal approach and leaving the eggs alone. But inspired by today's thread over at LTH Forum, I had a little brainstorm that I tested, and it worked fantastically well. I'm still not 100% certain whether this is a good idea, or if I've just been misreading instructions all these years and I'm stating the blatantly obvious, but here it is, anyway.

It's just a slight variation on one of the most traditional methods. I brought a pot of water along with about 1/4 C. of white vinegar just to the brink of boiling, then lowered the heat slightly so that it wouldn't boil. I took a coffee cup with a handle, and lightly oiled the inside. I cracked an egg into the cup, but instead of gently dropping the egg into the water, as is frequently suggested, I submerged the cup about 3/4 of the way in the water, so that the egg could set slightly while still protected inside the cup. I gave it about 10 seconds or so, then gently slipped it out of the cup. That short stint in the cup eliminated most of the little wisps that usually spread all over the place. I let the egg cook for 3-4 minutes, then removed it with a slotted spoon, and it came out perfectly.

Dominic Armato

Dominic Armato
It may or may not be worth noting that the cup I used bore an image of Gromit. Given his remarkable affinity for the fusion of things culinary and mechanical (the porridge cannon, for example), I can only assume that his canine visage helped me to achieve better than average results. Also, as mentioned back in March, I've been both surprised and thrilled by just how well poached eggs hold at cold temperatures. As instructed by The New Professional Chef (and hordes of other sources, I'm sure), when you remove the eggs from the simmering water, you can drop them into an ice bath and hold them there for a few hours. Then, you can gently reheat them in a pot of lightly salted water that's held at 120-140º. I had heard of this technique years ago, and had always assumed that it would adversely affect something as delicate as a poached egg. But I'm pleased to report that I didn't detect any deleterious effects of any kind.


Do you know Richard Olney on poaching eggs [Simple French Food; ISBN 0020100604]

"The freshness [of the eggs, M.] is of primordial importance (...) Use the largest low-sided receptacle you have (...). The larger the quantity of water, the less heat loss is involved with the addition of each egg (...). The low sides are necessesary to facilitate the removal of the eggs (...) and a lid is neccesary to prevent the loss of heat. Bring the water to a rolling boil, turn the fire off, and break in the eggs [maximum 4, M.], one after another, cracking each on a convenient edge and opening the shell only at the water's surface, permitting the contents to slip softly in. Cover and count about three minutes- but don't depend on your timer; chek and remove with a large, flat slotted skimming spoon as soon as he white is obviously coaglated to be easily handled."

Worth an experiment?

My mom uses a wok to poach eggs, so that she can crack them in right at the surface and she has a lot of surface area available. It works! (although they do the wispy thing...)

I use a spritz of oil and a ladle when I (rarely) poach eggs. It's not as cute as a Grommit cup, but my knuckles thank me for the extra distance between my tender skin and the boiling water.

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