I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to poach an egg. 

No matter what method I used, no matter what implements I used, no matter how assiduously I paid attention to freshness and temperature, nothing ever worked.  The egg would hit the simmering water and disintegrate, as if it was hitting a brick wall. 

This irked me.

It’s not that I have an Eggs Benedict habit to feed–in fact, I rarely even have poached eggs when I can have someone else cook them for me–but I was annoyed no end that I continually failed at something so basic.  I was enternally frustrated, trying more and more different and outlandish ways of poaching eggs, each touted in more and more obscure books.

From the relatively well-know ‘vortex’ method, which called for cracking the egg into the exact center of a pan of water one had just stirred madly into a simmering whirlpool (which caused bits of my egg to actually leap back out of the pan and spatter all over my shirt) to the (hopefully) almost unheard-of microwave method, which called for cracking a raw egg into a microwave safe bowl of water, then heating it on high power for a few minutes (which ended with still-raw egg splattered all over in the inside of my microwave and a burnt-sulfer smell that permeated my entire apartment, not to dissipate for almost two weeks).

Around the time of the microwave incident, I decided to give up on poached eggs.  Every time I made a recipe that called for one, I’d either steam-fry, bake, or soft-boil one instead.  This gave admirable results and the taste was probably similar, but inside, I stewed.

Last month I got the May issue of Bon Appetit, and surprised a recipe for Asparagus with Poached Egg and Miso Butter on nearly the first page.  I love miso, and this sounded intriguing enough not to let pass by.  On the spur of the moment I decide to make another try at poaching–it had been nearly a year since my last attempt, and my memories of the shrieking and swearing and kicking had almost faded. 

I followed the basic method–the one that I tried first (and fourth and tenth and seventeenth, ad nauseum) and discarded in tears each time.  I brought a small pan of water to a simmer, added a little vinegar and salt, then cracked two eggs into two custard cups, quickly dipped the cups into the simmering water and then upended them.

No explosion.

I even more quickly repeated all my actions with a second two eggs.  Again, no explosion.  The eggs stayed in neat, plump little ovals, so tall that the yolks almost rose above the surface of the water.  (In the end, I put a lid on the pan for a moment, or the yolks never would have cooked through).

They were done in about six minutes, including one with the lid on the pan.  I skimmed them out with a slotted spoon, dabbed at them nervously with a paper towel, then put two eggs each into two bowls of some vaguely arranged roasted asparagus (the original recipe called for boiled asparagus, but boiled asparagus is an abomination in the site of all that is good).

The miso butter–what originally drew me to the dish–was much more simple.  The recipe as written called for 8 Tbsp of butter and 6 Tbsp of miso (and a bit of vinegar) to cover six eggs, but since I was only serving two people (though making four eggs) , I determined to cut the quantity down.  Due to my fuzzy math skills, for some reason I cut the quantities in sixths, and made up a little two-Tbsp ramekin of the sauce.  Thank heavens I didn’t make more than that–the sauce was divine, but so rich that I don’t think I could have stood to eat any more than I did.  As it was, the quantity I prepared easily coated the eggs and asparagus in each bowl.

Yes, the eggs.  They were perfect.  They looked perfect, tasted perfect and were the most heartening cooking experience I’ve had in days.  I couldn’t tell you why they suddenly worked, after years of failure, but they did.  I’m a little afraid to try to poach eggs again, in case this was a lucky chance, but you can bet that I will, nonetheless.

Published in: on May 13, 2007 at 1:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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