Certain life skills that used to be common (even ordinary) just a few decades ago are being lost – and in some instances, even becoming extinct. “Mending” is a general category of skills that the majority of my peers (and I) simply do not possess. Darning socks, hemming skirts or pants…heck, even replacing a missing button are becoming quaint relics of “old fashioned” days. (And for men, many of the same things can be said of the “repair” category. How many guys know how to patch a leaky roof, change their own auto oil – or even hang a level shelf?) The “cooking” category is another area where people are slowly forgetting (or never learning) how to do things that ‘everyone’ once knew. Baking a pie (including making the crust), kneading bread, canning – these things aren’t done all that often any more. And dare I say the same holds true for poaching eggs.
In the more-than-thirty-less-than-forty years that I have been alive, I have never eaten a poached egg, much less made one. Poached eggs seemed to fall into the same category as mincemeat pies and pickled beets – things that people ate back in the day, but that no one consumes any more. Furthermore, somewhere along the way I was led to believe that a chef basically needed to complete formal training at Cordon Bleu or be instructed by Julia Child herself in order to even attempt making a poached egg. So lack of exposure teamed up with fear to keep me away from any recipe requiring a poached egg.
When I started making my 101 list, I sought to include any experience where in the past I have said, “I’d like to try that/do that/learn more about that, but…” Buts be damned. Time to move past whatever had held me back before (fear, laziness, apathy, etc.), and attempt those things I have been wanting to try. I may not succeed (and heck, I may not even like them!) – but I want to at least be able to say I have experienced them, and therefore can have an informed point of view about them.
Now, I do know how to replace buttons (my mom was a very good seamstress, and she made sure to have me sewing as early as 4 years old [no lie]); and while I am a decent cook, I have gaps in my culinary knowledge and experience. Earlier this year I tackled puff pastry, but there are still more kitchen-related skills I want to acquire. (See items #86 and #89, for example.) This weekend I noticed a few eggs in the refrigerator that were nearing their expiration date, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to try ol’ item #91.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t 100% certain what a “poached egg” even was, so the first thing I did was pop on to my good friend Google, and do some quick research. I quickly learned that strong opinions (dare I say “factions”) exist about the best way to poach an egg. I read intense debates arguing the point of needing/not needing to add vinegar to the cooking water. Some people assert a shallow pan with mere inches of fluid yields the best egg; other individuals are adamant that a big pot with a water vortex is critical to poached egg perfection. After taking in all of the information, I decided to follow the path that seemed like it would most consistently yield a ‘good’ poached egg: the big pot/whirlpool/pro-vinegar method.
I began by assembling all of my gear:
Next, I got a nice big pot of water to a near boil:
Then the pressure started. To the water I added a mere 1/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (the only vinegar I had on hand), then began stirring the pot with the big metal slotted spoon to create a whirling vortex.
Once I could see a depression in the center of the liquid, I oh-so-carefully slid the egg from the measuring cup and into the small fluid-y pocket.
The force of the whirlpool began whipping the egg whites around the yellow yolk:
And I held my breath for the first minute that the egg remained submerged. One cooking blog offered the following advice: “Don’t panic. Seriously, it’s going to look a little chaotic in there for a moment. You’ll probably have a little white fly off that you had wanted to keep attached to the egg. Breathe. It’s okay. It will still work out.”
I tried to trust this fellow writer-cook. I tried to be confident that all would be well.
At the end of three minutes, I fished the egg from the water, and carefully (carefully!) set it on the paper towel.
It looked pretty good – but I also saw a lot of white left behind in the pot.
I whipped up a piece of toast, liberally added some butter (‘cause fat makes everything taste better), then carefully transferred the delicate egg to the sturdy toast. Add a banana and some milk, and you have breakfast!
The poached egg looked and tasted pretty good to me – but then again, I’ve never had a poached egg before…so I think it worked? I’m not exactly sure what a ‘proper’ poached egg should be like… So once again, I went to the handy-dandy internet, and did a quick little bit of research:
Q: What should a poached egg look like?
A: “The ‘perfect’ poached egg has a runny yolk, with a hardening crust and no raw white remaining.”
“A poached egg should not look like a mucus covered fried-egg.”
“Straggly whites should not remain in the cooking water after making a poached egg.”
Based on these descriptors, I think I was about three-quarters-of-the-way to poached egg goodness. My egg had a runny yolk (yay!), and a pretty firm outer white shell (cool); but it did have a tiny dribble of undercooked/’mucousy’ white still remaining, and my pot looked like I was at the beginning stage of making egg drop soup.
Q: What should a poached egg taste like?
A: “Like butter.”
“Fresh, clean, and ‘yolky’.”
I’m not sure about the butter component, but my poached egg did taste pretty ‘yolky’, and it neared ‘delicious.’
While I was doing my appearance and flavor research, I learned that super-fresh eggs make the best poached eggs. The egg I used for this poaching attempt was a few weeks old; so I ended up going to the store and purchasing half-a-dozen “younger” eggs.
The next day, with new eggs in hand, I decided to take a second shot at poaching. (Eggs, not safari animals.)
And the results? Drumroll please…..
The new egg turned out beautifully! The freshness of the egg really did have an impact on how well the entire ‘package’ held together. At the end of attempt #2, only a tiny amount of whites remained in the cooking pot. And the yolk broke and oozed perfectly. See?
This egg really did have a buttery/clean/truly-delicious quality about it. I think I now know how to poach an egg!
Hmm. Well, that was easy… Brunch, anyone? 🙂