As my husband says quite often (usually with a funny grin and a bit of sarcasm), everyone learns at their own pace. When it comes to learning to poach eggs without the aid of a poaching pan, I am a late bloomer. I own a fantastic egg poaching pan that has wonderful little cups you can drop a hint of butter in, place in a rack within a pan over simmering water, place the eggs in each cup, cover, and Voila! you have great poached eggs.Here is a pan very similar to the one I have:
I have to admit, I have always felt that using such a pan is cheating. Real cooks do it in a pan with simmering water – sometimes with vinegar to help bind the whites of the eggs, sometimes with a swirl or vortex to help in the same process. I don’t know why I haven’t simply tried this before…perhaps I was afraid I’d end up with ugly poached eggs. But here I am up in Lake Tahoe, on vacation with family and friends, and we all had a hankering for eggs benedict. And we are without a poaching pan! And I’m not the only novice in this area – a houseful of cooks and not a one of us has done it in just a pan of water. So the time to finally try it the “real” way is here! I have to say, I was both nervous and eager to give it a try. I’m thrilled to report that my fears were utterly unfounded. It couldn’t be easier, and I think the eggs were actually more delicious cooked this way – more tender, more natural.
So here’s the scoop. We simply put a large skillet on the stove, full with enough water to cover the eggs once they were in (about 3″). We added a teaspoon or so of vinegar to the pan, and heated it until the water was simmering gently. Then we broke an egg into a small cup, and gently slid the egg into the simmering water. I did not do the swirl, since we had several eggs to cook at one time for a household of hungry would-be-breakfasters. We put 4 eggs in the pan at a time, and cooked them about 4 minutes in total. (Note that we are at a relatively high altitude in Tahoe, so it may very well take less time at lower elevations.) I did use a large slotted spoon to help keep the white together when I initially put the egg in the pan, and that seemed to help a bit.
[There is an excellent blog post from Martha Stewart on the various options in poaching eggs – vinegar vs none, non-stick pan vs stainless steel, to swirl or not to swirl. You can read more here.]
Once the eggs were done to my liking, we took them out and placed them on toasted english muffins with some thinly sliced ham, then topped the egg with some lovely hollandaise sauce (quick tip recipe below!). The eggs were perfect – tender with runny yolks. My hubby even said he thought they might’ve been the best poached eggs ever!
So do not fear the egg poaching, all you cooks out there. Give it a whirl (sorry for the bad pun). I think next up for me is to poach an egg in red wine and serve with a rosemary butter sauce of some kind as a dinner dish. Let the poaching begin!
(Note: How-to photos are from the great tips provided on poaching eggs on Williams-Sonoma’s web site.)
Recipe for the easiest hollandaise sauce ever:
You can certainly make hollaindaise sauce the old fashioned way, by whisking the ingredients together in a double boiler or in a bowl over simmering water. But it’s so easy to screw it up and overcook the delicate sauce. So here is an easy and foolproof method using a blender. Put 2 egg yolks, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, a dash of salt and a dash of cayenne pepper in a blender. Run for just a second or two to blend those ingredients. Melt 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter in a small suacepan over medium heat on the stove. When the butter is completely melted, hot, and foaming but not at all brown, you are ready to make the sauce. Do not do this if the butter is not adequately hot, or it will not properly cook the egg yolks to give you the consistency you want. Run the blender, and remove the center part from the lid so that you have an opening through which to pour the hot butter. Pour the butter slowly into the egg yolk mixture. When all the butter is added, replace the lid part, and allow to run for about 2-3 more seconds. Turn off and let sit for about 5 seconds with the lid on. You should have perfect hollandaise sauce!