Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to Poach an Egg

The spring has been late, then warm, then cool, and now for a couple of weeks, very dry. Then on Thursday, the skies opened up and it poured. The rain has continued with little break since....I love it.  Although some things are now drooping,

and a bit wet,

everything is lush and beautiful. Colors pop against the gray and the green.

As far as cooking goes, the clouds and the rain call for comfort food. I suppose this is part of what prompted the brownies.

Last night we had risotto—the epitome of comfort food.  In this case filled with the bounty of my morning trip to the market—asparagus and spring onions—along with peas (from the freezer...none fresh available yet) and herbs.

I've also been making poached eggs. Soft cooked eggs are a childhood comfort food--I had them often for breakfast with buttered toast. I occasionally had a "poached" egg on toast, but I don't think I ever had a real poached egg until I attended cooking school. I thought poached eggs were these odd little alien looking disks produced by an equally odd looking metal contraption that sat over a pan of steaming water.  Real poached eggs have been cooked directly in the water—without their shell or a metal container to control their eventual shape. They cook magically into a naturally shaped orb that will rest easily on a bed of greens or piece of toast. I've never had one floating in a bowl of broth, but that sounds wonderful, too.

Poached eggs go well with the new green vegetables of spring. They are especially good on a salad, where the runny yolk can mingle with the vinaigrette, making it almost creamy. Most of the time when I have a poached egg, I serve it on a salad that is some variation of salade frisée aux lardons. The classic version is made with frisée or curly endive, bacon, croutons, and a sharp, mustardy vinaigrette made with some of the bacon fat. The poached egg sits right on top. Recently I made it with roasted fingerling potatoes instead of croutons, and I used some of the spicy, substantial greens that I get at the Farmers' market instead of frisée.

Eggs are a classic partner for asparagus, too.  Since we have an abundance of asparagus from yesterday's trip to the market, for dinner tonight we had a poached egg on a bed of asparagus that had been sautéed with spring onions and some bacon—all on top of a buttered piece of toast. This would be what I call grown up comfort food.

To poach an egg, you will need a heavy bottomed saucepan which will help you to maintain an even water temperature. A pan that is wider than it is deep works best. Bring the water just to a simmer and season to taste with salt. Add a tablespoon of vinegar (red or white wine vinegar is fine) per quart of water. The vinegar will help the egg white to set quickly. Reduce the heat so that the water is not actively simmering—it should be still so as not to disturb the whites as they begin to set—around 200° is about perfect.

Crack an egg into a saucer or ramekin (that way you can pick out any bits of shell). If the yolk breaks, reserve the egg for another use (you could always make brownies or cookies...or cake...). Lower the ramekin so that it is touching the water and tip the egg into the water. Then just let it be. If you have beautiful, farm fresh eggs, the white should form a soft pillow around the yolk with very few straggly bits of white floating around it. I think a poached egg is perfect at 4 minutes—the yolk is mostly runny, but beginning to thicken around its edge near the white, and it is warm through. If you like your yolk more set, let it go for another 30 or 60 seconds. After a few eggs, you will know how you like it done.

If I am poaching more than one egg (you can poach as many as your pan will accommodate), I use a digital timer that counts up (rather than down). To keep track of when each egg should come out of the water, just note when (at :00, :15, :30, etc.) you put each egg in.  Then you can take each one out at the appropriate mark on the timer (4:00, 4:15, 4:30, etc.). Also, if you are poaching more than one or two eggs, you may need to raise the heat a bit to maintain the water temperature.

When the egg is done to your liking, carefully lift it out of the water using a slotted spoon. If serving right away, gently set it on a paper towel to blot it dry before transferring it to the plate.

If you are making poached eggs ahead of time, immerse the finished eggs in cold water and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, immerse the eggs in simmering water just to warm them through (3 or 4 minutes).

If you have never poached an egg, I hope you will give it a try. They are quick, nourishing and comforting.


Cristie said...

Beautiful egg. Love the dinner you served it with, it makes a simple egg so elegant!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inside info on poaching what's inside an egg shell. I am eager to get some in to hot water to try this now!

Daphne said...

Just thought of this earlier posting today. Poached egg on a bed of spring green, lardons, and fingerling potatoes. Dinner tonight! Thanks Paige!

Anonymous said...

Well, I've had a wonderful year of perfectly poached eggs after originally reading this post and learning the correct (easy) way to do them. Many more to come in following years as well. :·)

Paige said...

Thanks so much for letting me know! We love them too (they go with so many things)!