Friday, July 2, 2010

An Egg-speriment

Eggs are the simplest things in the world. A wonder in a perfect package. They taste good, are cheap and pack some protein. And now that the scientists are saying that the cholesterol we eat may not translate to the cholesterol levels in our blood, there is even more reason to serve eggs.

I am a fairly accomplished cook. I can make many uncomplicated dishes without a recipe. I have success following many complex recipes. I can usually read a recipe and get a good idea of how it will turn out.

So eggs. I can fry a good egg most of the time – firm whites and runny yolks. My scrambled eggs are moist and fluffy. I can even make a decent omelet. My problem is with soft boiled and poached. My attempts at soft boiled end up either disgustingly gooey or almost hard boiled. Maggie (of Cheap & Cheerful) wrote a wonderful essay on eGullet about soft boiled eggs . I’ve had more success with her method than any other I’ve ever tried, but I still don’t have them exactly right. I was obsessed for weeks with soft boiled eggs. I even went out and found perfect little egg cups and spoons. Poor Mr. Kim suffered through months of sort-of soft boiled eggs every weekend while I was fixated on these eggs.

So lately my egg mania has been focused on poached eggs. My poached eggs turn out looking like either long tentacled jellyfish or really dull egg drop soup. I found an interesting method at eGullet. Basically you put the eggs in individual plastic wrap bags and drop them into boiling water:

The instructions say to cook for 2 1/2 minutes. They were basically a bag of snot at that point. I’m thinking that some people eat eggs at a point that I would consider revolting. I took them a little too far, but I think that they would be perfect at somewhere around 5 minutes. I snipped the bags at 2 1/2 minutes and there was lots of raw white. At one more minute, there was still raw white. One more – still needed a little bit of time. But another minute was slightly too much. They were beautiful, though:

No tentacles!

I served them on top of a salad with bacon:

dressed with a good, tangy vinaigrette. The yolk mixes with the dressing and creates a lovely emulsion.

This method has a lot of promise. I think that once I have the timing down, this will be my go-to poached egg method.


  1. Those look GORGEOUS!!!!!

    I love a soft boiled egg, but also have trouble. I would rather err to the side of a slightly firmer yolk than a shell of snot!

    For most of my cooking, to put in salads,tuna chicken, or just keeping in the fridge for snacks,... I put eggs in a pot,cover with water and bring to a boil. At the precise moment it reaches a boil, I clap a lid on the pot and time exactly 5 mins. No more no less, and then under the cold running water and shell as quickly as possible.

    I've always been pleased, the yolk is not as beautifully runny as yours are, they are mostly done,just a hint of creaminess inside, and absolutely no green/gray ring around the yolk.

  2. P.S.

    On a past episode of some Anthony Bourdain show, NR or ACT, he was in the Basque region??, I think, and a chef he was visiting used the same method as you, with the addition of a drizzle of truffle oil before the pouches were tied and cooked.... just a suggestion.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions, Caro. For soft boiled, I don't need the yolds to be super runny, but gooey is good and yours sound perfect. Mr. Kim REALLY liked the truffle oil idea. Those would be especially good on a salad, too.

  4. Timing depends a lot on the temperature of your fridge (aka egg starting temp) and the size of the eggs.
    So a perfect '3 min' egg, was probably no larger than a 'medium' egg today. A jumbo egg is, as you say, a sack of snot at 3 min.

    That salad looks super. Yum. Yum. Yum.

    (Oh yeah, you can trim off the jellyfish tentacles, but if the egg wasnt pretty fresh, there wont be much white left after that. Been there done that!)

  5. Yes, the trimming - I've tried that, too. Ended up with a yolk surrounded by a millimeter of white.

  6. Kim, I first read about the plastic wrap recipe from "Bourdain's "Cook's Tour" -- the book. It became my fallback method for years, especially because I could add chopped fresh herbs. It's terrific.

    Weirdly, for the first time in my life I discovered a few months ago that I can poach eggs the old fashioned way, tentacle-free. Freaky! I'm not doing anything different.

  7. Thanks, Miss Maggie - it's nice to know that I'm not a pathetic egg sissy and the only one who's ever done them this way!

    I am very jealous of your old school, non-tentacle magic making. Maybe the chemical make up of your water(which there IS, though we don't like to think of it that way) changed slightly or else your eggs did. Odd, but nice.

  8. Kim, I have elementary sous vide equipment and I'm going to have to do some eggs sous vide. Apparently there are all sorts of textures that you can get just by varying the temperature a degree or so. Gotta try it.

  9. OOoooh! I can't wait to see the results of that experiment! Hope you post that on FB!

  10. When you did your poached eggs, did you spray the plastic wrap with Pam or a cooking oil? I tried that method today and the eggs stuck to the plastic wrap.

  11. I didn't that first time and had no trouble with sticking, but the last time I made them they did stick a bit. I think that I will try spraying next time. I wonder why they would stick one time but not another? Freshness of the eggs, maybe?

  12. I actually don't know having not done the method before. But my eggs were supermarket eggs that were in date for freshness. Who knows? I'd love to be dependably good at poaching the classic way in simmering water - but I only seem to nail that one out of three.

  13. Same with me. I CAN make classic poached eggs, I HAVE made classic poached eggs. Can I depend on doing so? NOPE. And truly, with this method, I still have trouble with timing. The last time that I did this, I unwrapped the eggs to find that they were still too snotty for us. The good thing was that they were cooked enough that I could plop them back in the pan without re-wrapping.