Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to Poach an Egg

Poached eggs are made by magic.  Or practice.  Something like that.  I learned the secrets at a technique class at Williams-Sonoma, where I got a front-row seat and watched with fascination as the magic happened over and over again right in front of my eyes.  Hey, I can do that!

Perfect poached egg, nice and gooey inside

A poached egg is what's used for eggs benedict and can be served over all sorts of other delicious things like toast or hash browns or lentils. If you have tried cooking them without knowing the tricks you've probably ended up with messes like mine - a weirdly rubbery yolk and a pot full of egg white soup.  Well, no more of that.

First of all, use fresh eggs.  The easiest way to know they are fresh is to buy them from a farmer instead of a grocery store. 

Second, do not use a saucepan with high edges.  The best egg poaching pans have low sides so you can get the raw egg very close to the water before pouring it in, like a saute pan.

The bowl of ice water isn't strictly necessary but is a convenient place to put all of the finished eggs, plus it helps to clear off the ghosty bits and make them look prettier.

A poached egg over curried lentils, every bit as delicious as it looks.

Poached Eggs
1 tsp white vinegar (this is very important)
Saute pan
Slotted spoon
Bowl of ice water

1.   Set up the water.  In a large pan with low sides, bring enough water to a simmer that the egg will have space to float and not touch the bottom of the pan.  A simmer is just below a boil.  It may be easiest to bring it to a boil first then turn the temp down.  Add 1 tsp white vinegar. This helps the egg white stay together instead of being soup.

2. Crack the egg into a small dish or ramekin (not directly into the water).  Not only does this make it easy to get out shells if the egg cracks badly, this lets you control the pouring into the water. 

3. Slowly and gently pour the egg into the simmering water.  Pour it so the white clumps together in one place, then plop the yolk right in the center of it.  If you're making several, pour the first egg at the 12 o'clock location and continue clockwise, so it's easy to keep track of which you put in first.  If the white of the first egg didn't stay together, add an extra teaspoon of vinegar before putting in the second egg.  

4. Cover and simmer the eggs for three to five minutes.  Five minutes makes the yolk harder with a soft center.

5.Starting at the 12 o'clock egg -
For a large batch of eggs: Lift the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop them into a bowl of ice water.  Just before serving, use the slotted spoon to move all of the cold eggs back to the simmering water for one minute to heat them back up.

For a small batch of eggs: Lift the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and set them on a paper towel lined dish until serving time.

6. Optional - set each poached egg on a cutting board and trim the edges with a paring knife so they are whatever shape you like.

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