Thursday, May 19, 2011

Egg Poaching 101

People do funny things when they're drunk. Some get more promiscuous, others start dancing on tables, and still others fall into a crying, self-loathing spiral. Me? I crawl into the nearest bed and promptly pass out. Oh, and I apparently like to talk about poached eggs.

A few months ago, while inebriated on beer and whisky, I spent an entire conversation harassing a chef to teach me how to poach an egg. The poached egg is an enigma to me—those delicate little satchels that cradle heavenly runny yolks. When the idea came to me to do an asparagus, prosciutto and poached egg salad for my five-course meal project, I was equal parts giddy and petrified. My learning how to poach an egg would be the equivalent of Santiago (the shepherd boy in The Alchemist) figuring out how to turn lead into gold.

The dream was to create a something resembling this beauty from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook:
On a Saturday morning, Zoe and Mat came over to my place to help me achieve the dream. To ensure my friends wouldn't starve lest I eff up the poaching, I served them the cheese course I plan on including in my 5-course meal: baked brie with apples, golden raisins and walnuts. I love making this when friends come over for wine and cheese. So easy but delicious!
This foolproof course plus a big baguette would tide us over until I got the hang of this egg poaching thing. Once reasonably full, I set up the egg poaching station with all the essentials: vinegar, slotted spoon, ramekins, ice bath and of course, a dozen eggs.
There are myriad ways to make "perfectly poached eggs" but the general idea is that you need simmering water with a little bit of vinegar in a pan to do it. The Ad Hoc at Home cookbook said I needed 6-8 inches of water, others less. Some will tell you to stir that water vigorously to create a vortex to drop the egg into, while others don't mention stirring at all. I can tell you that the vortex method did not work for me. Zoe thought keeping this little egg graveyard by the stove would keep me from repeating my mistakes.
After two botched attempts, I was feeling disheartened. But then we found this YouTube video that put us on the right track. Zoe and Mat each took a turn, et voila!
That the two of them made perfect poached eggs on their first try definitely put the pressure on! I was so nervous when I slipped that egg into the water, you would think I was jumping off a tower or something. But I stayed calm and corralled that egg into a little oval just like the lady in the video did, and lo and behold ...
That, my friends, is pure unadulterated JOY. You would think I'd found the holy grail or something—which it kind of is for me. The thought that I can have poached eggs anytime I want just blew my mind. After grilling some asparagus on the broiler and Zoe making a lovely batch of garlic croutons, we had this lovely plate to dig into:
A priceless cooking skill learned and one more course checked off! Up next: braised short ribs.


  1. My grandma use to make poached eggs for us every weekend but I'm so bad at cooking, I've never tried them. Your course looks great!

  2. Egg poaching is really a challenge. Congrats Celine! Can't wait for the five-course meal :)

    And oh, that facial expression is priceless! :)

  3. Things to Do - It's not that difficult actually once you get the hang of it. This course is so easy but really satisfying. Try it!
    Maudey - Just posted the 5-course meal recap. Check it out!

  4. I noticed that the egg itself is a huge factor -- the fresher the better! The older eggs turn into egg flower soup despite vinegar + slow pour :)

  5. I made sure to buy eggs for poaching the day of the dinner so they were fresh as possible and I'm sure that helped a lot. That said, I just poached an older egg awhile ago quite successfully so the vinegar is probably a really big help too!


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