Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Perfect Poached Egg (or not!)

I’ve just finished reading Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia which is about her foray into the culinary world through her decision to cook every single recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. It was very good but not a gripping page-turner; the film of the book (with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) is similar – a light comedy. There is a whole chapter about Julie’s struggles to make a poached egg and it gave me an idea. I’ve always been able to make poached eggs…just not very perfect looking ones. So I decided to try out all the various ways I know of and see which one gave the best end result!

First up was the standard ‘get the water bubbling and crack an egg in over the water’ style. Into the same pan I added a second egg which was cracked into a ramekin and then gently tipped into the bubbling water. Did it make a difference? YES! The egg that was cracked straight into the pan spread out everywhere and looked anything but picture perfect. The egg from the ramekin stayed together a lot better and came out looking like a real poached egg. See for yourselves:

My Mum had breakfast at the Burj Al Arab once (something everyone has to do at some point with special visitors) and the chef there told her they wrap the eggs in cling film before poaching them. Interesting idea. Technically, if the egg doesn’t come into contact with the water then it isn’t poached – it’s coddled. Technicalities aside though, I gave it a try. It did work to keep the egg nicely together (how could it spread out when it’s confined?) but the lines of the plastic were left on the egg which did look a little strange. Maybe I should have folded the plastic around the egg instead of twisting it up like an Easter egg. Regardless, I’m not convinced about putting plastic into boiling water, isn’t plastic toxic once it gets hot? Hmm.

Finally, I tried cooking the egg in a ramekin dish in the water. Definitely coddled, not poached. Definitely not a good idea since the egg came out as hard as a boiled egg. The first day I tried it the egg cooked away for 30 minutes before I realised I should put a lid on the pan so that the top of the egg would get the heat! Runny yolk? No chance. The next day I immediately put the lid on but the top it still didn’t seem to cook – it stayed clear and wet – and when I finally decided that it must be ready it was once again solid as a rock. Not a success.

I could have tried with a poached egg pan (basically the ramekin concept but the dishes are built in to the pan) or with a silicon egg poacher (same again, just a small dish that hooks over the pan edge. However, I don’t have either of those and since neither of them would be genuine poached eggs I figured it wouldn’t ruin my experiment. It is possible that one of these methods would give the best looking egg though.

The conclusion: crack the egg into a ramekin, get a shallow pan of water boiling and then turn it down so it’s simmering and finally tip the egg into the water. Fail-safe plan? Sadly not. I tried the ramekin-dropped egg again a few days later and it didn’t turn out quite so well as the first time – certainly not as bad as cracking it straight in from the shell but not as tidy as the photo. In the end though (except for the hard boiled one) they all taste the same and that runny yolk, soft egg white and fresh toast taste just can’t be beaten.

Give it a try and post up your results!


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