We have chickens in the garden who give us the best eggs. We fry and soft-boil them. We use them for cookies and cakes. We make a lot of omelettes. But I’d always been too terrified to try poaching them.
I knew, from overcooked versions I endured at way too many brunches (particularly on Columbus Avenue, NYC), that they were tricky. Some recipes suggested adding vinegar to the poaching water, but I’d tasted too many vinegary poached eggs to want to do that. I read about whipping up whirlpools in simmering water to help the eggs keep their shapes, which sounded complicated and I never believed it would work. Instead of trying any of this, we bought silicone “egg poachers” and used them for years. The results were okay, if a little rubbery around the edges.
I decided to take on the challenge after reading a few pages of the EGG chapter in The Food Lab, the fabulous cookbook by J. Kenji López-Alt, the thoroughly engaging chef/editor of Serious Eats.
Before buying the book, I’d been a fan of López-Alt’s work on the website. His writing is charming and generous and smart. His book is more of the same. His chapter on eggs is clear and comprehensive and gave me the courage to try poaching eggs for the first time in my life. He points out that one of the most important criteria for successful poaching is starting with a fresh egg. Check! I was off to a good start. He eschews the whirlpool idea and finds no need for vinegar, but does recommend keeping them moving once they’re in the barely simmering water. Here’s his recipe on the website. I’ve been using it ever since.
The other night, I steamed some fat, spring asparagus, draped some thinly sliced prosciutto over them, then topped them with an egg! A sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs finished it off. Perfection!