Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mar 6th - Poached Eggs on Jalapeno Grits (Polenta)

I woke up earlier than I planned and tried to go back to sleep but could not shake the fact that I had no carbs in house. I wanted eggs but I had no bread. I laid there thinking about baking biscuits or making quick bread or crepes. Sleep would not come. Crazy I know. Well, my egg sandwich was out of the poached but what with?? AAAA Grits aka Polenta. Perfect... a nice runny yolk erupting into the savoury porridge, yes!

I have mastered the poached egg at home. I do not claim to make the world's best poached egg but I do claim to make the best poached egg at home. What is the distinction? Well, I have tools everyone has. I am limited to my FoodTV watching skills and I have a standard home stove top.

It has taken dozens and dozens of eggs to perfect my method. I have gone through many gadets and tools. You name it I've bought and binned it: silicon cups, simmer pans with egg cup trays, microwaveable clamp type contraptions. They are all a waste of money. The main reason I do not support the use of these is that they require oil to lubricate to aid in removal. I reckon that if I wanted oil then I would have fried it or basted it. Sometimes I will do a dutch basted egg if I am too lazy to poach. Not that it requires more effort, probably quite the contrary.

Now, you might have heard similar instructions but there are a few nuances that you will not normally see in a cookbook.

1. The size of the sauce pan should be quite deep. I say large because my medium sauce pan is not deep enough. It should be at least 4 inches deep where a standing egg will have an inch of water above it. It should also be at least 4-5 inches wide so that you can comfortably stir a standard whisk around in circles.

2. The vinegar is a must. It will prevent the egg from break up into those ghostly strands. There should be enough vinegar that you can smell it from the water. A perfect poached egg will wrap around itself and look like a chocolate kiss or dimsum dumpling all from the vinegar and swirling water. If you use a neutral vinegar, you will not taste it on the final egg. But keep them warm in some water and this will help in washing some of the vinegar away.

3. Do not salt the water. I find it more difficult to control the water when it is salted. The salt will raise the temperature at which the water will boil so I find it more difficult to tell when I should pull the egg to prevent a hardboiled yolk. See I do not add salt to a boiled egg so I know that when I am boiling a medium egg, I cook it for 4 minutes. If I salt the poaching liquid, then the temperature will over cook the yolk, blech.

4. Bring the eggs to room temperature. A cold egg will bring the temperature of the water down and throw off the cooking time. As well, I find when you do this, that the white will remain slimey longer and I try to firm it up and over do the yolk. I put some warm water in a bowl and sit the eggs in it while I bring the water to a simmer.

5. Do not let the water boil. Play with the heat of the stove to keep the water at a gentle to moderate simmer. Julia Child used to call the gentle simmer the point the water begins 'to Smile'. The small bubbles at the bottom of the pan are numerous and they are starting to break quickly. Big bubbles are bad. It means the water is on the verge of boiling which also means, the water may be too hot and the bubbles will shake the egg about too much and ruin its shape.

6. *Whisk the Water Counter Clockwise*. Actually, you could probably decide to ignore all my tips thinking you already know how to poach and egg, but do this one. I have tried this in a single batch of half a dozen eggs. The counter clockwise eggs had that great 'Hershey's Kiss' finish on the white. That is the alot to do with the vinegar but even then, the clockwise eggs did not hold the shape as well.

7. Obviously, ONE egg at a time. Really this is no big deal. Why? while trying to manage the shape of several eggs at once while trying to control the heat of the water which is dramatically changed when you add several eggs, is just as much if not more effort. I can never keep track which I added when. You cannot use the swirl method with more than 1 egg.

The Perfect Poached Egg

1 LARGE sauce pan filled with water where a sumberged egg has an inch of water above it
2 T white vinegar (or rice wine, something without too much flavour)
1 whisk
1 slotted spoon
1 small prep bowl
1 small pan on lowest lowest setting with an inch of water, to the side.

Heat the water on high with the vinegar. Warm the eggs in a bowl with warm water.

In a small prep bowl, crack an egg and do not break the yolk. If you break the yolk, use the egg for something else.

Whisk the water by running the whisk along the side of the pot clockwise until the water stops fighting you. You will know. A small hurricane will form in the middle. Lift out the whisk and count to 3 and carefully drop the egg in the middle. Now because of the whisking and the vinegar, you do not have to fuss with using a spoon to keep the egg together. You will just make it worse if you do.

Start the timer. 4 minutes no more no less.

Lift out the egg and place in the warm pan.... bare bare heat on that keep warm pan. If you cannot control that 'melt' level, don't put on heat at all. That's okay. You can dunk your eggs back in the poaching water just before serving.

Repeat. Drain as much water off as you can. You can hold a stale bit of bread or papertowel under the slotted spoon to absorb more water faster.

Serve on toast or with your eggs benedict OR as I did, on top of your grits. MMMMM when the medium yolk breaks into the velvety grits, the combination is decadent.

Jalapeno Grits (Polenta)

1 1/2 c milk
1 T butter
1/2 t natural low sodium vegetable stock
1 jalapeno minced
1/4 c yellow cornmeal, fine
salt and pepper to taste

I like to do this in a non stick small sauce pan to avoid distracted mistakes.

Bring the milk, butter, stock powder to a boil. Turn down immediately. If you have a halogen oven that stays hot for a long time, turn it off completely. You do not want to scald the milk. Whisk in the cornmeal by sprinkling in while stirring constantly. Add the minced jalapeno. Add more milk or water if it gets too think. Season to taste. Cover and set a side for 5-10 minutes.

Garnish of spring onion optional but nice.

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