Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: 1 stick of butter for brunch

Jenn and Jill 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.
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This is my first Daring Kitchen challenge and my eyebrows went up when I saw it involved poaching an egg. I have nothing against poaching an egg, I've just never had the urge to poach eggs before. Since it seems like a handy skill to have in the kitchen, I decided I'd jump in to my first challenge and conquer the poaching of an egg.

Here's a couple of things I learned right off the bat when I set out to make the first recipe in this challenge:
  1. Don't make a hollandaise sauce right after a great workout at the gym. 
  2. Have more than 5 eggs on hand when you start to cook.
Miraculously,  I managed to make the recipe without royally screwing up, but just barely. Here's the first screw-up:

First egg in the pool
Turned into this...
Before I took the plunge, I went searching for egg poaching videos online (yes, I know how sad that sounds) and found a helpful one featuring a chef instructor from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America, not the other CIA). Poaching eggs looks easy - make sure you have salt and vinegar in the water, keep the water temp between 165 and 185F, create the whirlpool, make sure they aren't sticking to the bottom, take them out when they start to float and plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking.

I decided to go with a test egg and while it looks pretty good, the damn thing never floated so 5+ minutes of poaching created an egg with a pretty firm yolk. Luckily it wasn't fully cooked through, but I kept a very close eye on the next two eggs that I poached. At least I got 3 edible eggs for our lunch.




Since I only had 5 eggs on hand, I could only make 3 eggs benedict since the hollandaise sauce called for eggs too. The recipe specified 3 egg yolks to make 1.5 cups of hollandaise sauce. That sounded like a bit much to me for our lunch, so I cut the recipe back to 2 yolks. That meant instead of using 1 1/2 sticks of butter, I only needed 1 stick! (This is the reason why you don't want to make a hollandaise sauce after working out - I could feel the benefit of my ab exercises flying out the window.)

I was surprised to learn afterwards that Julia Child described hollandaise sauce making as tricky. It's probably a good thing I didn't know that beforehand or else that might have messed myself up. I can make custard so I generally have a good understanding of how eggs behave, but I had the heat on too high for my double boiler and almost whipped myself some scrambled eggs at the start instead of "slowly thickening the egg yolks over a gentle heat while constantly whisking". Luckily, yanking the bowl off the pot of water and adding cold butter cubes (all 8 tablespoons of it, one bit at a time) rescued the sauce from the brink. After whisking in some lemon juice, salt and cayenne, I had myself some very respectable hollandaise sauce.

The assembly was the easy part. Canadian bacon got thrown in a frying pan to crisp up, store-bought spelt english muffins got toasted, then they all came together to look like this:


They were definitely tasty - it's the hollandaise sauce that makes the dish, and how can you go wrong when you're eating a stick of butter? Actually, I was surprised by how little sauce we used - this is what we had leftover that went in the freezer. I would guess that there was maybe 1 tbsp worth of butter on top of each egg, which isn't nearly as bad as we thought. I still don't understand how the full recipe makes 1.5 cups for 4 eggs, but oh well - I'm happy to have leftovers for the next time!

Half-cup of leftover hollandaise sauce


So my moral of the story on poaching? It's not hard, but it does take some technique aka luck. I'd rather follow the Momofuku instructions from David Chang - keep the eggs whole in the shell, put them in a water bath set to 140F, and cook for 40-45 minutes. I've read techniques to keep water on the stove at that constant temperature, but I'm started to wonder if an immersion circulator could be a handy gadget in the kitchen. Too bad neither the husband or I can waltz into one of our labs and help ourselves to a water bath...

2 comments:

Audax said...

An immersion circulator sounds amazing. I think even your failure (the poached egg picture)was a win LOL LOL. And your final photo of the 3 bennies is superb. Well done on this challenge.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Jennifer said...

Your poached eggs look perfect!!!!!

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