the stuff dreams are made of

the stuff dreams are made of

poached eggs are kinda my thing.

Not because I know how to make a great one.  I do, but lots of other people do, too.  Really, it's because I’m just kind of obsessed with them.  I really, really love poached eggs. They make my world go ‘round (I’ve maybe said that before).  

Eggs are pretty obsess-worthy all on their own.  When sourced from healthy, happy hens, eggs are highly nutritious.  They also do amazing and magical things in the kitchen when gently heated and whisked with some butter and lemon juice or whipped into an oblivion with some sugar or ever-so-gently cooked in steaming water until the white is set but the yolk is...  what is the yolk?  I can’t even think of the proper word to describe what the yolk of a perfectly poached egg is like.  Still liquid, but the consistency of melted caramel sauce and a color so vibrant you can’t help but be cheerful as you plunge your fork through the white for the first time and release that culinary gold onto whatever dish has been given the privilege of hosting your miraculous egg creation.  Even if it's just toast.  

So I cook them all the time.  I put a poached egg on top of my grits, pasta, cooked vegetables, salads, soup, and toast and I eat them morning, noon and night.  I mean, not every day!  But a lot.  Which means that I’ve got my poaching method locked down.  You want to know what it is?

 mise en place

mise en place

I start with really good, fresh eggs.

My favorite, here in Denver, come from a small farm in Northern Colorado called Penny’s.  If you can, get your hands on some small farm eggs.  Make friends with your urban homesteading neighbors!  Or visit the farmers markets.  Either way, find a source where their chickens get a more varied, natural diet and are not raised in stacked coops.  And even better, ones that come from somewhere close by.  Because freshness!  It’s the key to a great poached egg.

you’ll also need a little white vinegar and a shallow pan filled with water.

I use rice vinegar and about 3 inches of water, or so, is all you need.  Place it over high heat until you see little bubbles rise up to the surface.  Reduce the heat (usually just barely below the medium setting) and keep it at that temperature - the water should be still (not bubbling) but steaming with a few tiny bubbles every now and then.  Seems weird?  I promise you, it’s hot enough.

crack your egg into a small cup.

Don’t like to dirty an extra dish?  Too bad, you just have to.  Sometimes even the most masterful egg cracker gets a little shell in there.  And!  The cup makes it easier to slide the egg into your pan gently so it holds its shape.

pour a splash of vinegar into the hot water and stir.

By splash I mean about 1 Tablespoon, though I never measure.  Just be judicious with your splashing because too much vinegar produces a poached egg that is spongy, sour-tasting and anything but great.  Use any white vinegar you have on hand.  Rice vinegar is my favorite for poached eggs so I always have some in my pantry (it’s also great for making Asian style peanut dressing!).

create a swirling vortex or whatever.

Or don’t.  If I’m only making one poached egg all by its lonesome, I stir the water in a circular motion to create a little vortex in the center of the water that helps the egg form into a nice, ovular shape when you gently slide it into the center.  If you’re making poached eggs for a crowd, though, this method doesn’t really work.  And it also doesn’t really matter!  I will poach up to five eggs at a time by just sliding them right into the still water.  Sometimes they will stick to the bottom of the pan a little, but you can easily pry them off with a spatula so they can float along until they’re cooked.

stay close and start paying attention after about 3 minutes.

Because time is an illusion and quantum physics and stuff.  But really, because it’s always different so you shouldn’t really expect that a timer will tell you when your egg is done, you should know what it looks like so you can recognize it whenver it might happen (which, depending on how many eggs you’re cooking if you really need a number to shoot for is anywhere between three and 7 minutes or so).  

get friendly with your poached egg.

Don’t be afraid to push away the stray threads of white (you’ll always get some, especially when your eggs have aged in the fridge for a little while.  It’s fine, stop worrying.).  You can even cradle your egg in a slotted spoon and gently remove it from the water to get a better look at the state of your whites.  They should be opaque - if you still see a lot of translucent white, put that sucker back in the water for a little while.  The moment all of the exterior white has firmed, remove the egg with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl or a plate or maybe slide it along your marble counter and have an egg race (as long as you eat it afterwards!).

bask in the gloriousness that is your perfectly poached egg.

And after considering it’s beauty and wonder for a spell, slide the egg atop whatever you’re serving it with and drizzle a little oil on top, douse it with hot sauce, cover it with hollandaise, or simply sprinkle it with a little salt and maybe some freshly ground pepper, and then savor that thing.  You did good, you masterful egg poacher, you.    

 what a lucky piece of toast.

what a lucky piece of toast.

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