Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Elusive Poached Egg

Dear Tricia, I swear I cook more things than just eggs, but I need help on how to poach those bad boys?

I used to have a huge fear of poaching eggs. Like being in jail or working in a cubicle, I was certain it was something I just wouldn't be any good at. Then I started working in a hotel where I made the breakfast everyday, so poaching and I were forced to become friends. It's easier than you think.
To start off, bring a pot of water to boil. You're actually going to poach the eggs at about 180 degrees, but go ahead and bring it a boil and you can turn it down later. Add some salt to the water (I hope you've read enough of my blogs to realize how passionate I am about adding salt to everything. Maybe that's why I drink dirty martinis too. Curious.) and you'll also need to add about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Vinegar is so important when it comes to poaching because it helps the egg keep its shape in the water. (Read the "How did Diana Ross' Hair get into my Eggs?" post for more information on that fancy word called "coagulation.")
So while you're waiting for the water to heat up, crack the egg into a small bowl or ladle. You do this just to make sure that the yolk isn't broken. If it is, use another egg and save the first one for throwing at your nosy ass neighbor who's always peeking over the fence. When your water comes to a boil, turn down the temperature so that the water isn't moving around. Small bubbles on the bottom of the pan are just fine, but make sure it doesn't come back up to a boil. If the water is moving too much, it'll just tear up the egg and you're back at step one. On the other hand, if the water is too cool, the white and the yolk will try to separate before they can cook, so don't be a baby about turning the temperature down either. If you have a cooking thermometer, you can use that in the water to make sure you're somewhere around 180.
Then comes the fun: take a spoon and start swirling the water around in one direction. You're going to make a little whirlpool and drop the egg into the center of it. That helps the egg whites start to wrap around themselves and again, keep their shape. You may want to turn down the temperature again, just to make sure it isn't coming close to boiling. Seriously, the second your water starts to boil, you're not poaching: you're boiling. Obviously. So be mindful of the temperature. The egg should be done in a couple of minutes: When the white starts to solidify and isn't translucent anymore, its done. If you have a slotted spoon, use that to take the egg out of the water to drain it easier. A perfectly poached egg has a white that gives easily to a fork or spoon and the yolk is still very runny but warm.
There's also special pans you can buy meant specifically for poaching eggs. If you like to eat poached eggs often, I'd recommend buying one because they're so convenient and make it impossible to mess up.
I'm a fan of the poached egg. Its one of my comfort foods: when I was having a semi-nervous breakdown last year, I once ate 9 of them in one sitting. Yes, I said 9. Don't judge me! What, you've never eaten your feelings before?
For a video lesson on poaching, there's plenty of videos on youtube, but my favorite is on because the guy has an Irish accent.

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