Poaching. To mountain bikers this sometimes means riding trails where bikes aren't allowed. For lovers of delicious food it means gently heating something in water until it transforms into something delicious. I have some things to say about the former, but let's focus on the latter.
As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love good food. 3 squares a day. Just like my mom taught me. Many days start with eggs and for the past few years the go-to cooking method has been poaching. Pre-ride I love a big pile of buttered white rice with a couple of poached eggs, salt and Sriracha hot sauce. If you follow me on flickr you've seen this before.
Lately I've been asked by more than a few people how I poach my eggs. No gizmos, no tricks, just some hints from Julia Child and a little practice. Just like framebuilding, there are lots of ways to do this. Here's my way.
I use a 2qt (2L) saucepan when I do two eggs. I rarely do more than two, but I can get 4 in the same pan. If you need to do more than that, use a bigger pan. Fill with enough water to cover the eggs, about 2" (50cm) deep. Add a glug of plain white vinegar and get it on the heat. The vinegar helps keep the whites together.
I put it on high and get the water to a boil. You're not going to boil the eggs, but it gets the water up to temp fast. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down low. At my old place I had an electric range that kept enough heat and I could just turn it off at this point. With gas, you will need to keep the flame on. I leave mine on "2"--play around with it, this is where the practice comes in.
Next, give the water a swirl with your slotted spoon and while it is still swirling crack your first egg in. Do it quickly and gently. Hold the egg right over the water and let is slip out of the shell into the center of the pan. If you burn your fingers a little you are probably doing it right. The swirling water will keep the egg white wrapped around the yolk, which while not totally necessary, is a step close to perfection. While the water is still swirling (and maybe with an additional stir) drop the second egg right next to the first. It is ok if the water bubbles a bit (which actually helps keep them from sticking to the pan), but it should not really simmer and definitely not boil.
Set your timer for 3 minutes and start it. After the eggs have been in the pan for 30 seconds or so, use your spoon to very gently make sure they are separate from each other and not stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Go get your toast going. I usually make my first espresso at this point too (more on that in a future post).
When the timer goes off carefully lift an egg out with the slotted spoon, let the water rain away and give it a jiggle. If the white seems solid you're done, if not keep them on for another 30 seconds and check again. Don't overcook them! It will take a few tries to get a feel for the right amount of jiggle.
Serve them up.
If you did it right they will resemble the shape of an egg in the shell, the white will be barely firm and the yolk will be warm and runny. Enjoy!
#1 most important tip: use good, fresh, fresh, fresh eggs. Just like coffee, even if the eggs were fresh when you bought them a week ago they are not fresh any more. As they age the whites get runny and they will spread into a stringy mess when you drop them in the pan.