Daring Cooks: the Poached Egg

Ah the so simple looking poached egg. Yet it is a feared cooking method by many chefs. As our hosts said “Poaching an egg is not very difficult technique-wise, it really is all about the timing.” Absolutely right, the theory is simple, the execution…another story. I tried poaching an egg a long time ago and never had since, I guess my results were not satisfactory and I did not wish to improve at the time. But I had to try it again.

I ended up loosing my 2 first eggs as the yolks broke when I cracked the egg into a separate dish. I never break yolks but this time they did. Frustration! Well At lest the yolks could be used for the Hollandaise. Since I did 1/3 of the sauce I was left with 2 whites and 1 yolk. My next two eggs cracked fine and I tried swirling the egg into to simmering water. I freaked when I saw the tentacles but once cooked and fished out they looked OK enough. As I cam e to take a picture of my second poached egg…I dropped the egg. The whites shattered. My third egg was my most successful.

Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill (jillouci) have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num. For the full Daring Cooks Poached Egg challenge please click here.

I decided on Eggs Benedict but with a twist by making colcannon cakes instead of using an English muffin. Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, butter, salt, and pepper. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions, chives, garlic, boiled ham or Irish bacon.

Mine, even with this description, is unique. I omitted the cabbage/kale part and I used a purple yam instead of a regular potato. I have used it once before to make a traditional Filipino dessert called Ube Halaya

Eggs Benedict
Serves 4

Ingredients

Colcannon
450g potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
A little plain flour, for dusting
Olive oil, for frying

Poached Eggs
white vinegar (1 tbsp per 3 cups of water, depending on the size of your pan)
dash of salt
4 large eggs

Hollandaise Sauce
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 Tbl. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

1. Cook the potatoes in a covered pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the butter in a pan over med-high heat. When the butter has melted add the onions and cook until they are a nice brown. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Drain the potatoes and run them under cold water. Mash until smooth and then beat in the remaining butter. Fold in the onions mixture. Shape the mixture into four balls, dust with flour and press into neat patties. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and add the patties, then cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. Set aside.

3. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.

4. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

5. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using). Keep the Hollandaise warm by placing small bowl in a larger bowl of hot water.

7. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer. Add salt and vinegar.

8. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk, 30 seconds more for a less runny yolk. Gently remove once ready with a slotted spoon and drain well.

9. Top each potato patty with a poached egg and top with Hollandaise sauce. You can add anything you wish on the patty before the egg, like bacon, ham or cheese as I did.

I served mine with mixed greens and added some black lava salt for a finishing touch. I can’t even begin to tell you how good it was. I was afraid the sweetness of the yam would throw off the whole thing but on the contrary is enhanced the tastes: the zingy taste of the Hollandaise, the creamy egg yolk, the saltiness of the cheese and sweetness of the yam was absolute heaven.

Remember my extra egg whites and one yolk? Well I did a quick omelet with them and I had a brilliant idea. Here is my Ode to a Big Mac Eggs Benedict style. This one I topped with Annatto seeds. A nice full lunch that will keep hunger at bay!

I really enjoyed this challenged because Eggs Benedict are a favorite of mine and I never tried my hand at them before. I learned that as long as the egg is cooked I don’t need to worry too much about the look because it will be covered in sauce. Also I found this challenge a lot less time consuming than expected. I would do it for guest for a Sunday Brunch without fear.

Here are some great tips from our hosts:

• Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible. Farm-fresh eggs will make for the best poached eggs. Old eggs will have a harder time with the whites spreading out all over the place when you place the egg in the water.

• Adding a bit of vinegar or acidic agent to your water will help stabilize the eggs and cook the whites faster, and keeping your water just below boiling point (about 190F) will help keep the fragile eggs from all the boiling bubble action rupturing the eggs. Also make sure to salt your poaching water well.

• The other main key to success is to crack your egg into a small bowl first, taking care not to break the yolk. Then it becomes easy to gently slide the entire egg into the water for the poaching process. Some people will also suggest swirling the poaching liquid into a bit of a vortex before sliding the egg in, in order to help keep the egg whites together. I’ve found it works fine whether or not you do this step.

• A poached egg is done when the whites are fully cooked and the yolk has just started to solidify but is still runny when you cut it open – usually three minutes. It’s OK to go a little longer though depending on your desired firmness. I like mine so the edges of yolks are cooking but the inside is still runny, so I usually let them go 30s longer.

• You can poach eggs ahead of time (about a day). Just immerse them in ice water after poaching, and then keep them in a bowl of water in the fridge. When you are ready to use them, place them in hot (not boiling) water until they are warmed through.

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