Poaching eggs is a long time tradition with foxes, but it's also a tradition with the French. Of course, we're talking about two different kinds of poaching, here. Foxes trespass to steal eggs. Some of the French may have done this, too, but mostly they boiled the ones they got legally. Then again, maybe they poached the eggs they poached.
You know, my neighbor keeps chickens. Hmmm ...
When I first tried poaching eggs, the water was too hot, I overcooked them, and there was little to no egg white still attached to the yolk. They were pretty awful. It made me wonder what the heck people were thinking when they first cracked an egg into boiling water, or why they'd ever want to do it again.
Fortunately I didn't listen to myself. Since then, I've learned a better way to poach eggs that yields a light texture and creamy flavor that's as perfect on toast as it is in Eggs Benedict.
When poaching eggs, the fresher the egg, the better. The whites in older eggs spread out too much in the water. Adding vinegar to the water helps firm the white up faster. Adding salt to the water thins the egg white, but I still do it. I think it gives it better flavor. You can poach eggs up to a day in advance, if you want. It can save you time if you've got a lot of food to cook, and people to feed.
2 1/2 to 3 quarts water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
Bring the water, vinegar, and salt to a boil in a large pot. Reduce to a light simmer. Fill another large bowl with ice water.
Break one egg at a time into the water, holding it as close as you can to the water before opening and letting the egg slide into the pot. If you're worried about burning yourself, crack the egg into a small cup and then slide the egg into the water. (I prefer the former method, but the picture didn't turn out. Sorry.) You should be able to do several eggs at a time, but don't overload the pot. Try and drop the eggs over places where the water is lightly bubbling so that it doesn't go into the pot too fast.
As soon as the eggs are in the water, and the whites are starting to firm up, gently drag a large slotted spoon over the bottom of the pan to move the eggs around slightly, keeping them from sticking to the bottom.
After 3 to 4 minutes of cooking, the eggs can be removed with a slotted spoon. To check the eggs, lift them out of the simmering water and press the whites gently with your fingertip. The whites should be set, but the yolks soft to the touch.
As soon as the egg is done, gently transfer it to the ice water to stop the cooking process, and wash off the vinegar.
Once the eggs are cold, remove them from the ice water and remove any ugly hanging bits with a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears. Place them in a bowl of fresh cold water and refrigerate until you're ready to use them.
If you want to serve them cold, remove them from the water and drain them well on a paper towel. If you want to eat them hot, place them in a strainer and lower them into boiling water for about a minute. Remove, drain well, and serve immediately.
Poached eggs are great so don't be nervous either poaching them, or eating them. Just don't poach them before you poach them.
Erm ... you know what I mean.
Title picture by Steve Woods
Other pictures by Writer Girl!