Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Great Egg Poaching Experiment

I came across a new technique for poaching eggs while surfing the net. Being a really big fan of eggs, i couldn't resist the temptation to try it out asap and since i had this blog to update, i figured why just stop at trying out this new technique? So i did a little more research and came up with 4 different methods to try out and document(details further down).

There was no way i was going to eat ALL the eggs from the experiment so i called andrea, my favourite makan kaki, and lured her over with promises of a brunch fit for a FIT=) young lady such as herself. She demanded benedict d'oeufs when she heard that poached eggs were on the menu and i was stuck with the tiresome chore of scratching up some hollandaise sauce.

I did a quick search online and found a recipe for a 'no fuss blender hollandaise' but a previous encounter with hollandaise has left me convinced that this is a temperamental mother sauce and i decided to make it the old fashioned way instead.

The menu for the day was simple. Brunch was kicked off with a sweet&spicy bell pepper soup(which i stupidly forgot to take a photo of). This was followed by a sourdough based eggs benedict/florentine combo. Actually, it's more like a crostone, which is a mega crostini.

I used my 3 week old starter for the bread. I made the starter by following some instructions i found online. I had crossed my fingers and hoped that there were some yeast spores in the organic flour, threw in some original flavour yakult for culture(literally, to get the bacteria which produces the lactic acid which makes sourdough sour) and fed the lot with a slurry of flour and water every week. Thankfully, the mass had started growing and bubbling.

I skipped class so i could be home to make my sourdough on Friday morning, timing it so that all would be ready to go by 8am today.

Everything was perfect except that i had a late night and didn't get up till 10am. Oops...

Once i finally got the sourdough was in the oven:

I wilted my spinach,

caramalised my bacon,

and whipped my hollandaise,

leaving the illegal egg hunting to the last part.

Method 1: Vortex
Stir the boiling water in a pot to create a whirling vortex and then pour out an egg into the vortex
Anybody who has ever tried to poach an egg would tell you, just by reading it, that this is a really stupid idea.

Just to prove that it is a stupid idea, i did it.

Conclusion: Sham, don't waste your time

Dude with a bad hair day

Method 2: Jump Start

Boil in shell for 30 sec before proceeding on with normal method
The idea here is to get the egg white on the outside cooked so you get a nicely shaped poached egg. Seriously? Anyone who has had oeufs mollets before knows that the white ALWAYS sticks to the shell and you need to scrape it out with your spoon then mixing the whole lot with tons of white pepper, light soy sauce and sesame oil before soaking your kaya toast in it and slurping it down with loud rude noises of indulgent satisfaction. MMmmmMmmm... Sorry... I digress...

Conclusion: Sham

Come on, did you expect anything different? I even left in for 45 seconds, 50% longer than what was recommended. I finished off this egg the classic way.

Method 3: Classic

Add salt and a little vinegar to the water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Crack an egg into an oiled ladle and gently lower into the water. Carefully tip out of ladle when white solidifies.

This works, it really does.

Conclusion: Old is gold

For those of you who are wondering, vinegar is necessary for good looking poached eggs. Only absolutely fresh eggs will give you perfect, round poached eggs. They're impossible to get unless you own some laying hens(if that's the case, please let me know if i can have some).

Egg albumen is 15% protein by mass, dissolved in water. Many of these proteins are polar in solution and interact readily with water which is a polar solvent. By acidifying the water with the ethanoic acid found in vinegar, you create a less attractive environment for the egg white to disperse into the water. This results in a 'tighter' poached egg.

Method 4: Contemporary(this is the method that sparked off this article)

Place cling film on the inside of a cup. Oil the inside and crack an egg into it. Tie up into a parcel and then poach.

Conclusion: Sometimes new techniques can be better than tried and true ones.

I've never made poached eggs as perfectly shaped as this. Incredibly beautiful and with very little fuss. However, i do have my reservations with regard to this method. Cling film is most commonly made from stiff Polyvinyl Chloride(PVC), softened with pthalate plasticizers. This shit transfers to all foods it comes in contact with but this time, you're immersing it in boiling water. Even if you got the film made from the purportedly safer Low Density Polyethylene(LDPE), it's still boiling plastic. Freaky...

The Finished Result

I used the classically prepared poached egg for the sample photo because it had the best shape and sat really nicely on top of the crostone. People who know me personally will recognise this dish as my MSN display picture(flavoured salt was used on that dish instead of hollandaise).

So there you have it, the Great Egg Poaching Experiment was pretty much a success. Just another excuse for me to muck around in the kitchen. Till next time, eat well.

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