#91: Poach an egg

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.

Dropping the egg into the “vortex” felt a bit like entering a double-dutch session. (Yes, I used to double-dutch as a kid. I wanted to ‘prove’ to the school kids on the playground that I could do it – they didn’t think a white girl could jump. I showed them that indeed, she could. *wink*)

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.

Egg drop soup anyone?

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!

Yum.

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’.”
“Delicious.”

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?

Quasi Eggs Florentine.

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? 🙂

Stef

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About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in 101 in 1001, day zero project and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to #91: Poach an egg

  1. kat says:

    Oh wow! Thanks for the lesson! For me, poach eggs is the hardest cooking method ever!

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    • Stef says:

      Kat, you are very welcome! I actually thought poaching eggs wasn’t too terribly difficult. For me, it required confidence and a steady hand more than anything else. (And a hefty dose of patience helped, too.) 😉 I’d love to hear how your efforts go!

      Like

  2. Excellent! Poached eggs are such a great alternative to fried eggs,e specailly for anyone on a low calorie or low cholestrol diet! So another one of your 101 challenges completed! 🙂

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    • Stef says:

      Thanks Piglet! I was surprised at how good the poached egg tasted, for basically just being covered in water for a small period of time. I dare say it is just as good as its fried compatriot. 🙂

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  3. barb19 says:

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Congrats on the poached eggs Stef, you did it and both look pretty darned good to me.
    We have poached eggs twice a week and I use vinegar as I think it helps to set the white. My mother taught me that way and it works. It does make a difference the kind of egg you use too – we have our own chickens, so always have fresh eggs but I remember when we didn’t, and had to buy them from the shop – they never, ever tasted half as good as one straight from the chicken!
    Making puff pasty is very ambitious and time consuming; I remember watching my mother make it as a child (and realize why it is so fattening with all the butter she used). I don’t attempt to make it now, just buy it frozen! But I still make my own short crust pastry.
    I guess I’m still an old fashioned gal with old fashioned ways, and tried to teach my kids some of what I know as so much is being lost in our modern society.

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    • Stef says:

      Thanks Barb! I have a few friends who either have their own chickens, or who have access to someone with a chicken – and they say that the taste of fresh eggs versus grocery eggs is beyond comparison. I’m jealous.

      As for the puff pastry, I didn’t make my own – I used the frozen kind. And that was enough of a challenge for me! I can’t imagine making puff from scratch…. BIG props to your mom for doing so! 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Tribute to Eggs Florentine | Savory Sundays

  5. Touch2Touch says:

    You did swell!
    Poached eggs are DELICIOUS, super-yummy, I adore them — but don’t make them because they only come out well once out of 5-6 tries. So I think you are a wonder, with a natural affinity for them!

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  6. Omg Stef! They look phenomenal.

    My top tip for less eggy bits in the saucepan after, would be to submerge the egg, in shell, into the boiling water for 10 seconds before cracking it. It solidifies the whites a little & keeps it together. Also don’t be too ferocious with your vortex. 😉

    Great job.

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    • Stef says:

      Thank you Jonathan! I’m genuinely flattered by praise from such a true culinary ace as yourself.

      My vortex was actually pretty moderate (less like a tornado, more like a bathtub drain emptying). I learned through double dutch that a person can’t ‘muscle’ their way into the scene; rather, they have to enter the flow calmly and smoothly. 🙂

      Your idea for complete egg submersion makes sense; I’m just afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fish the egg back out of the water without breaking it (and puncturing the yolk). I’m not terribly coordinated. 😉

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  7. Wow, you’re a natural! I’ve never tried cooking OR eating Poached Eggs, but this makes me curious! Maybe I will try it sometime! 🙂

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    • Stef says:

      Sharon, I recommend you at least try eating a poached egg. I stayed away from them for a long time because they looked kind of gross to me (all runny and yucky) – but eventually my curiously got the better of me, and I broke down and gave them a whirl. And now I’m glad I did, because I found them to be very tasty! 🙂

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  8. Congrats! I love poached eggs and last year I finally learned how to make them myself. I like the in-process photos you got as well.

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  9. carlaat says:

    Congrats on the egg! This leads to a question I have – I’ve seen little rings that you put in the water to hold the egg – is that still a poached egg? Does that count among the factions you researched online? Hmm – always something new to learn! 🙂

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    • Stef says:

      The research I did conceded that yes, an egg made using the little metal rings is technically a poached egg – but it’s the “cheating” way of making it. Purists said that if you want a “real” poached egg, it needs to be cooked free-form in water.

      I’m not a stickler for arbitrary mandates like that, so I vote if an egg is poached with the assistance of a metal ring, it’s still a poached egg. But, I will say that it is cool to be able to make one free-form; it really is like a magic trick. 🙂

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      • carlaat says:

        Ahh – good to know – cool! I will have to try the “vortex” method some day – or the “little ring method” – I haven’t yet tried either! Something to look forward to!

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  10. Stef, you’re like a chef! 😉

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  11. Sy says:

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/poached-eggs-recipe. Don’t know if you’re familiar with mr food scientist here, but even if he is too anal for you, he explains things pretty well.

    Like

    • Stef says:

      Good Eats! Yes, I am very familiar with Alton; my husband and I started watching his show literally a decade ago. I love his combination of easy-to-understand-science, quirky humor, and good food. 🙂

      Like

  12. Sy says:

    Ever tried sauteed radishes in butter with dill? They’re surprizingly tasty. Just slice them thin and go for it.

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    • Stef says:

      Sy, I have never even heard of that. Do you use fresh dill or dried? I might have to give that a go…

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      • Sy says:

        I used dried and only made them because my wife asked me to ( I do the cooking) and must say I was pretty impressed. I’m going to make some for Thanksgiving and see how they go over.
        Martha Stewart has a recipe for them also that only calls for coarse sea salt and black pepper, but I liked them with the dill.

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  13. Pingback: Day 13 « Three Daily Delights

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