Monday, June 20, 2011

Egg Poaching 101

First let me start off by saying, there are many things in life that are easier said than done and there is no shame in admitting that. There is also no shame in trying and failing. With that in mind, this blog post is not as much a tutorial as it is a step by step guide accompanied by a story of my own successes and failures when met with the challenge of poaching an egg.

Poaching an egg is one of those tricks that every chef seems to have in their arsenal and it was something I had always wanted to try. So, with my task set, I looked up any advice I could on poaching an egg. Most places I looked all gave similar advice, simmering water, white vinegar, room temperature eggs, and patience. What the recipes seemed to conveniently forget to mention was just how difficult it actually is.

So, first step in almost all the recipes was to fill a pan with one inch of water, three tablespoons of white vinegar, and one teaspoon of salt. There were variations on the amount of vinegar and salt but I can't see how it would really make a difference. The vinegar is there to help the egg whites set and doesn't add vinegar flavor to the egg so don't worry about that. Next, I set the pan on the stove and got the water to boil. At this point the directions told me to turn the heat down so the water was simmering. So far so good.

Next I cracked an egg into the simmering water and left it until the white looked firm and cooked through. Despite this being my first attempt, it actually didn't come out too bad and at least the egg was cooked. However, it became clear after this first egg that I hadn't put enough water in the pan because while everything seemed alright I realized after taking it out of the pan that the top had cooked but it hadn't actually been in the water so the first one was more like a sunny side up egg cooked in water. It wasn't exactly appetizing so I got rid of it.

After adding more water I tried again, first simmering the water and then carefully adding the egg. This time seemed to be going much more smoothly than the first time and the egg looked right. However, when it was time to take it out of the water, egg number two became a victim of the slotted spoon. As I was removing it part of the yolk got stuck in one of the holes on the spoon I was using thus cracking the yolk and ruining the (almost) perfect poached egg.

Alright, so now I had the correct amount of water and I knew to be more careful taking the egg out and I was ready to try again. This time I was a little too anxious and I took the egg out too early, which meant the white wasn't cooked enough and the white ended up separating completely from the yolk.

At this point I was getting a little discouraged and I wondered what it would take for me to get it right. With three eggs already ruined, I wanted to try just one more time to see if I could do it. Finally, this time everything went right. I put the egg in gently, I let it cook through, and I made sure to remove it carefully so as to not disturb the gently cooked egg.

After all those attempts I was just glad to have one good egg to show for it. It was far from perfect but I was happy with it. I definitely need more practice but for my first time it wasn't bad. I had planned to make some sort of recipe using the egg such as a hollandaise sauce but after all the work that went into the egg I just didn't have it in me to make it so I just enjoyed it simply with a piece of toast. Maybe next time.

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