I don’t know if you know this about me, but I consider my chief talents to be editing, poaching eggs, driving in traffic circles and making (in no particular order) salads, soups and fruit pies. I’ll perhaps say more about editing and traffic circles another time. And, I’m sure that I’ll have something to say about soups and pies down the road too.
With respect to my other talents, here’s my best advice.
People always say to put vinegar in the water to poach eggs. That’s ok advice for a beginner, but it’s a scaffold that should be thrown away as soon as possible. Vinegar in the poaching water makes the eggs taste a bit (wait for it –) like vinegar, and makes the whites a bit rubbery. I’m not sure what exactly happens there, but it’s like the albumin gets all “Oh, no you didn’t!” and toughens up.
So, if you don’t use vinegar, how do you keep the eggs from falling apart in the water? Here are my tips:
- never poach more than two eggs at a time. Any more than that, and you can’t watch them closely enough. Moreover, if the pot is smallish, more than two eggs will cool the water too quickly. (So, what do you do if you need, say, six eggs? Cook ’em two at a time and then transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Once all six are done, you can briefly return the cold ones to the boiling water to warm them up for service.)
- The foregoing is relevant because it is the heat of the water that firms up the egg whites so that the eggs don’t fall apart. But, be careful, if the water is on a rolling boil, that motion will tear the eggs apart. So, you need to bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down a couple of notches before you add your eggs.
- And then, before adding your eggs, use a spoon to swirl the water in the pot in a circle to make a little whirlpool. This motion of the water keeps the uncooked whites from dissipating just long enough for them to cook a bit (and thereby keeps the eggs from falling apart).
- Now, and this is super important, add the eggs one at a time. Crack the egg into a ramekin or a small, shallow bowl, bring that bowl close to the surface of the water, and then just tilt it slightly so that the egg kind of rolls into the water (as opposed to being dropped in it).
- When the eggs are done, remove them one by one with a large slotted spoon. Let them drain in the spoon for a few seconds before tipping them into the waiting dish.
Oh, and, once you have your perfectly poached eggs, you can now put them on top of just about anything savoury. I love poached eggs on a salad or on top of a spicy potato hash or on top of chilli or or or… You cut into the egg and the lovely gooey yolk is a perfect natural sauce that trickles over whatever’s below making it even yummier than it was to begin with. Mmm. I want one right now.
Well, let me save my generalizations about salads for another post. (But, make no mistake — I’m prepared to make many generalizations about salads.) For now, let me tell you about a super salad that I invented last night and that I plan to make constantly from now on. It takes five minutes and is healthy, delicious and elegant.
Start by making the dressing. Finely mince one shallot. Put it in a lidded jar along with a little bit of dried mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper. (What quantities? Sorry. I’m very good at driving in traffic circles, but I’m not very good at paying attention to what quantities I use when I cook. Let’s just say that everything is “to taste.” That’s cheating, isn’t it?) Ok. Now, put the lid on the jar and shake it until well blended.
Now, compose the salad.
Start with a big pile of baby spinach. Top this with one fresh pear (skin on), cored and sliced. Top that with big lovely ribbons of padano or a similar hard cheese. (And, here’s a tip that everyone should know. The best way to produce these ribbons of cheese? Just use a potato peeler. Works like a charm. So pretty.) Now, take a handful of pecans and toast them very quickly in an ungreased cast iron pan. Just as they begin to smell like toasted nuts, take the pan off the heat and drizzle some maple syrup over the nuts. Toss ’em around until coated and then top the salad with the warm maple-glazed pecans. Now dress it. Now gobble it up. So freaking good, right?
So, that’s what I’ve been eating lately. And, there are a couple of my talents for you.
Once upon a time, we said we’d blog about food; so, I thought I should. Next time, I’ll be back in feminist-activist-scholar form. I have (separate) things to say about breast feeding and special pleading. Take this as a promissory note.