Monday, February 15, 2010

Poached Eggs 101

For all my knowledge about Martha Stewart and her offerings, my cooking skills are basic at best. This will be surprising to some, I'm sure, but I never said Martha Moments was a cooking blog. Oh, I can steam rice, scramble eggs, fry bacon, roast a chicken and bake potatoes, whip up a decent stir-fry and make a mean meatloaf on occasion, but I'm no professional.

Until Monday afternoon, poaching was a no-go area for me. I had never dared to attempt it. I have one of those egg poachers with the pre-formed egg dishes that sit over a bath of boiling water, but that's totally cheating. I had never made real poached eggs. I figured it was time to try.

The March issue of Everyday Food has a great how-to feature on poaching eggs, along with several recipes that put these delicious creations to good use.

Everyday Food magazine is my kind of cooking publication, full of helpful tips, simple and fast recipes that don't skimp on taste. I cook from Everyday Food much more than I cook from Living, which is why I was intrigued and tempted by a how-to article on poaching eggs. It always seemed strange to me to simply plunge an egg into a pan of water - strange and intimidating, to be frank. (Wouldn't the whites go every which-way and scatter into an icky mess?)

So, I brought out the eggs, rolled up my sleeves and poached me some eggs! Below are the instructions and the results of my experiment.

  • In a 12-inch straight-sided skillet, heat 2 inches of water over medium heat until tiny bubbles cover the bottom of the pan. Crack each large egg into a separate small bowl (do not use eggs with broken yolks). When a few bubbles have broken the surface of the water, gently pour each egg into the pan leaving room between them.
  • Cook the eggs, undisturbed, until the white is just set and the yolk is still runny, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently release the eggs from the bottom of the pan, if necessary.

  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs one at a time from the water. If serving them immediately, blot the bottom of the spoon with a paper towel to remove excess water before serving.

  • Poached eggs can be stored in the fridge for up to three hours before serving. They can be warmed up using the same simmering procedure used to cook them, but reduce the time to 30 seconds.

My first attempt was a blatant failure. I added the egg too quickly to the water and it went everywhere, as I had originally feared it would. I also think the water was not yet hot enough. Later, when I attempted to unstick the egg from the bottom of the pan, matters got worse and the whites dispersed even more. After five minutes, I removed the egg with a slotted spoon. This proved to be disastrous! The egg yolk, still creamy inside as it was supposed to be, gave way through the slots of the spoon and splashed back into the water. I didn't even get to the paper-towel stage. It was a bad scene. It was time to calm down, regroup and try again. This time I was determined to make it work.

To help improve my results this time, I made a few adjustments; I added a bit of salt to the water to help congeal the egg whites (and I mean just a dash of salt) and let the water get a bit hotter before adding the egg.

I brought the salted water to a boil first then turned down the heat to a simmer before very gently adding the egg from the small bowl I had emptied it into. It turned almost immediately white, which was much more promising than the first attempt. When I saw the flailing bits of egg white reaching out towards the sides of the pan like the desperate tentacles of a sea creature, I got those palpatations again, but it was all for nothing. I looked at the photos in the magazine and noticed that they revealed the same sort of tentacle effect. (My note to anyone who tries poached eggs: allow for some egg-white tentacles. They will do no harm.)

I began to notice that the body of the egg was getting that nice, round, pretty shape shown in the magazine. Bolstered by confidence, I unstuck the egg with the spatula, with much better results this time. I also gently cut away the egg-white tentacles with the spatula and scooped them out of the pan. I watched my little egg island float for another two minutes or so. I could tell the yolk was still creamy inside, which is perfect.

To remove the egg, I did not use a slotted spoon. (Why tempt fate?) I used a shallow ladle and tilted it to spill out any excess water, holding the egg gently in place with the spatula. I placed the egg on a small plate, which removed more of the water, and then gently lifted it to my lunch plate.

Et voilá! I got it on the second try! My happy little poached egg, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper, and served with 12-grain bread (delicious when soaked with yolk), a slice of tomato and lettuce went down easy. It was so delicious! It was the texture more than anything that I noticed - smooth and melt-in-your mouth good! That's Everyday Food.

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