Thursday, April 01, 2010
Eggs are amazing. They are not easy to get right. Some chefs can't fry a decent egg to save themselves. There are so many ways to cook eggs but the best way for me - poached. I have ordered poached eggs ever since I learned they exist. Poached is not a typical Asian way of doing eggs. Soft or half boiled is more common but they are different. A half boiled egg won't sit on top of say, smoked salmon or grilled asparagus. I love them to death but cooking a poached egg? I tried it once a few years ago at our old place and it was a disaster. I ended up with a pot of egg soup tasting foul of vinegar. After dumping four eggs I almost broke down in tears and vowed never to try poaching eggs again. I didn't even tell my boyfriend about it.
However with the turn of events recently, I find myself stuck at my mother's house and can't go out for food. Having not had poached eggs for a long time, I literally woke up one very early morning checking out several You Tube videos on the best techniques. That same day I was determined to try poaching eggs.
From videos, cooking blogs and Google, you'll find many suggestions to get the perfect poach. People use vinegar, poaching cups (what are those anyway?) and cling film (yeuk... and melamine poisoning anyone?). Having eaten sour poached eggs at Dome once and my almost meltdown after my first attempt, I decided to try a method without vinegar. I have since then poached eggs just in water, in water with salt and in water with both salt and some fresh lemon juice. If you are also not a vinegar person, the third method works best. Poaching an egg is very much just science. There are some key steps which are not negotiable and once you follow them, success should be at hand.
How to Poach an Egg
First, ensure the egg is at room temperature. If you use an egg straight from the fridge, add a minute or two to the cooking time. Heat a pot with a few inches of water in it. The bigger the pot the more water you need but that also means you can poach more than one egg at the same time. Let it come to a boil. Add some salt and lemon juice.
At this point, reduce the heat to the minimum allowed by your hob. The objective is to get the water below simmering, just forming bubbles at the bottom of the pot. Wait for it to come to this state, your patience will be rewarded. I find it easier to reverse the water temperature from boiling to poaching heat.
Break the egg into a small bowl or cup. Make a whirlpool in the water by stirring it vigorously with a ladle. Drop the egg gently into the center of the spinning water and stand back. No panic is required here. Just cover the pot and wait for two to three minutes. If it looks like mayhem is breaking loose in the pot (some wayward egg white dancing around...), ignore it. The whirlpool and acidic water will help set the white around the yolk.
When the time is up, remove the lid and gently lift up the egg with a slotted spoon. Don't worry about some leftover white which may have escaped the cooked egg. If the egg is stuck to the bottom of the pot slightly, use a spatula to separate it. I drain the egg just by wobbling it on the slotted spoon above the sink as the idea of egg on paper towel is not attractive.
I don't use ice bath as I like to eat my eggs immediately and I don't think it will be as good when reheated. This cooking time will produce runny yolks so add a few minutes if you like your yolks fully cooked. The egg may not turn out nice and round all the time but that's part of the fun. You'll never know what you'll end up with.
After all that hard work and concentration, you start to feel a slight excitement when you get to gently lower the egg onto whatever ensemble you have prepared for it to go along with. A little salt and pepper and voila! Add some hollandaise sauce and you will have eggs Benedict. Replace salt with light soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce for a different take. The joys of life come in the simplest form sometimes. Runny yolk and wobbly whites, life is great! An alternative guide to poaching an egg can be found at one of my favorite cooking blog - Deb's Smitten Kitchen.
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