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Julia egg project: Poached

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Humpty Dumpty's cooked cousin has a broken heart
I had never poached an egg before this. I'm not a fan of runny yolks so there was never a need to cook eggs this way or have them half-boiled. But I had to do it in the interest of my Julia Child project where I test the egg recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I started with scrambled eggs yesterday and will continue with more over the next few days).

I can't say that I have taken a liking to runny yolks, but if anyone wanted their eggs poached, I could do that now.

This is what Julia Child says about the technique:
"The most important requirement for poaching is that the eggs be very fresh; the yolk stands high, the white clings to it in a cohesive mass and only a small amount of watery liquid falls away from the main body of the white. A stale egg with a relaxed and watery white is unpoachable because the white trails off in wisps in the water leaving the yolk exposed."
Here's her advice for eggs that are not that fresh:
"... simmer them in their shells for 8-10 seconds before poaching. This will often firm up the white just enough to make it hold its shape around the yolk when the egg is broken into the water."
I have read and seen TV chefs swirling the simmering water in their pans before putting the eggs in. That apparently helps keep the egg nice and round. This isn't Julia Child's method. I tried the swirling technique for one egg and the white floated all over the pan. Maybe the free-range eggs I used weren't as fresh as I thought (although look at that lovely yellow yolk!). But when I left the water alone for the other egg, it was easier to keep the white and yolk together. Mrs Child really did know what she was talking about. And to think, she didn't even know how to boil an egg when she got married.

The poached eggs are pictured here with blanched asparagus and drizzled with a simple white sauce (not from the book).

TOMORROW: Shirred and baked

Before the break-up
Oeufs Poch├ęs
To transfer the egg from the shell to the water, you may either break it directly into the water or break it into a saucer, tilt the saucer directly over the water and slip the egg in.
Cooking time: 4 minutes per egg

A saucepan or deep frying pan (I use a wok)
Vinegar (which helps the eggs hold their shape)
  • Pour 5cm of water into the pan and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar for every 500ml of water. Bring to a simmering point.
4 very fresh eggs
A wooden spoon or spatula
A slotted spoon
  • Break an egg and slip in into the water. Immediately and gently push the white over the yolk with a wooden spoon for 2-3 seconds. Maintain the water at barely simmering point and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.
A bowl of cold water
  • After 4 minutes, remove the first egg with the slotted spoon and test with your finger. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. Place the egg in the cold water; this washes off the vinegar and stops the cooking. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done, and poach others in the same water if you are doing more.
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon concentrated chicken stock (or ½ vegetable stock cube)
½ teaspoon cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add water and concentrated stock. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and stir in cornflour solution to thicken sauce; season. Drizzle over eggs and asparagus.

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