I’m a really big fan of eggs for breakfast.
In the school cafeteria, for a while, they used to make fresh omelettes for breakfast, with whatever ingredients you picked. It was amazing, until they decided that it was too expensive for the catering company to do individualised omelettes and instead they baked large tubs full of egg-mix and made a sort of spongy egg pudding that was then called omelette.
I was sad, but then I was also about to graduate, and since I came home I’ve eaten eggs in every imaginable variation, except raw. I had boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, omelettes, eggs sunny side up… and poached. Yes, poached. And let me tell you, poaching an egg is intense, an adventure that gets your heart beating faster as anticipation rises before the crucial moment when you drop that egg into the water… will it work? Will the egg white form nicely around the yolk or just dissolve into a chaos of white stringy pieces?
All I knew about poached eggs was a vague memory of deliciousness from back when I was 16 and lived in California. There was a trip to some breakfast restaurant and I had something called “Eggs Benedict” – which, in case you didn’t know, is a deliciousness that consists of poached eggs on an English muffin, with bacon or ham and sauce hollandaise. I remembered not knowing what poached eggs were, and taking a chance on my order – needless to say I did not regret it. But trying to make my own poached eggs proved quite the challenge.
The secret, I realized, is not the vinegar. There are websites with recipes that swear you need vinegar in your poaching water, and those that say you can leave it out. After trying both versions, I’m inclined to say do what you like – it didn’t change the result much for me.
The secret is water temperature.
Basically, this is how you poach an egg:
- Crack the egg into a small dish (you can also crack it straight into the pot later but I find it easier this way).
- Fill a small pot with water (make it decently full, you want the water to be deep enough). Optional: Add a dash of vinegar to the water.
- Heat up the water. Here’s the crucial point: You don’t want it boiling, you want it simmering. Simmering means as close to boiling as possible without actually boiling. It’s that stage of the heating process when all the little bubbles that have been forming on the bottom of the pot start rising. The first time I tried, I was scared it would start to boil too quickly, so I ended up not heating it enough. If the water is too cold, your poached egg will be a mess – it won’t solidify fast enough and the egg whites will be all over the water and basically just look like little white strings, attached to the yolk if you’re lucky, but just as often floating freely.
- Stir the water to make like a mini-swirl in your pot. Drop the egg where the eye of the hurricane would be if your pot were the open ocean. If your water temperature is right, after an initial second of chaos, you will see something like this:
- If you’ve gotten this far, the hardest part is done. Turn down the heat and let the egg sit and boil for a few minutes. I’ve read 3-4 minutes as recommended, mine was done faster. It will depend on how fast your stove cools down, for example. You want your egg to be wobbly if you poke it carefully with a spoon, but not too soft. When it reaches your desired state of wobbliness, scoop it out with a big spoon. It took me about four attempts to create a poached egg that was pretty enough to be photographed, but I finally did it, so here you go… this is approximately what your result should look like (after seasoning and stabbing it with a fork to let the yolk come out a bit 😉 )
- Eat, enjoy, repeat… you’ll see, it’s much easier the second or third time around 🙂
PS: I feel very domestic posting recipes and kitchen stories on this blog. Don’t be fooled, I’m not nearly grown up yet… but I guess I’m on my way now!