Sunday, February 8, 2015

Puttering with poaching

DSC01210 (1300x975)Eggs are probably the most ubiquitous and consistent food that I encounter as an expat.   But they are also the most regionally versatile and culturally idiosyncratic  food when served.

There is little agreement on the proper way to serve an egg from one country to another: a Spanish Tortilla differs from a Tunisian Brik or a French Eggs en Cocotte.  The national varieties are enumerated in Wikipedia and celebrated by Smithsonian.  The permutations through history are just as interesting.

Closer to my experience, the Dutch like Uitsmijter, the Americans prefer Fried, and the British take theirs Scrambled.  Each basic preference is modulated with local rules for how long to cook, what to serve alongside, and how to arrange the presentation.

It all gets problematic when offering to make breakfast.

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I’ve developed skill in making appropriately runny scrambled eggs, surreptitiously tossing mine around a bit longer to get them ‘fluffy’ (desiccated).  Similarly, I can deliver a fried egg to the table with  buttery flavour and minus the crunchy brown bottom for those who tolerate the style.

But it’s apparent that there is only one universal compromise: To Poach.

Unfortunately I have never been DSC01206 (1300x942)able to pull off the perfect poach, so I settled in this weekend to master it.  I studied Jamie Oliver’s How to poach the perfect egg three ways, and his earnest energy makes it all look easy.  

I boiled up the water, added a tbsp rice vinegar, got the egg in the cup, spun the water briskly, and…  it fell apart into a murky white soup.

* Fresh eggs *  Hot water, no bubbles * don’t poke at it *

Second try, I used the cling-film approach he suggested.

This one didn’t even make it to the pan before leaking.

DSC01203 (1300x975)Third:  Good spin, deft toss of the egg, and Rouxbe’s advice on cooking times: a spatula at 2 minutes and lift on 4.  However, when I thoughtlessly grabbed a pasta spoon to lift it out…

The egg did not survive the lift...

DSC01211 (1300x974)Fourth: A new spoon, more eggs, and a good success for timing and lift from the pot.  However, I let it sit and it began to cling to the metal.  Consequently, the presentation was a bit …  lopsided.

DSC01215 (1300x970)Fifth try: perfection!  I reeled off a few more to show it wasn’t a fluke, and got everything served warm.  ‘Notch another skill (and I never had to resort to the plastic poaching sleeves that I had as a backup in case I couldn’t get this to work).

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Finally, two further notes on shopping British eggs:

  • DSC01222 (1300x975)Americans eggs come medium, large, and extra large.  My Waitrose stocks Braddock White, Burford Brown, Bluebell Aurancana, Blacktail, Legbar, Duck, Quail

While partial to the blue ones, I’m working my way through them all.  It’s just like learning potatoes ….

  • DSC01219 (938x1300)And no, Europeans do not refrigerate their eggs: they are out on the supermarket shelf alongside bread and spices.  It turns out that refrigeration is an American thing.

‘no worries…

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