A dear friend of mine has been staying with me for the past few days, and we have started each morning with a bowl of poached eggs with a little sautéed spinach, and warm toast (a little hot breakfast to help us brave the cold!) I knew sort of how to get the job done on day one, and now, a dozen eggs in, I think I’m really starting to get the hang of it.
Poached eggs are– like all forms the egg takes– pretty much the best thing ever. They are comforting, savory little things, that have to be eaten with something bready– something to soak up all the yolk!
Poaching an egg starts off seeming somewhat intimidating. I’ve fooled with it enough to know that all that really matters is getting a warm, edible egg on your dinner table. They sell little silicone cups, microwavable contraptions– all sorts of things that claim to make poaching eggs simpler– and I don’t really know if it is true. A good old pot of water and dash of vinegar is all I’ve ever used, and it works well enough for me.
Begin poaching by heating a pot of water. I use a large cast iron with tall sides, and fill it with about three inches of water and a few drops of vinegar. Any pot filled with a good three to four inches of water will do. The vinegar helps to tighten the egg white– there is debate about using it or not– I find it useful.
Over medium heat, bring the water to the point just before boiling. Bubbles will grow out of the sides of the pot when it reaches just the right temperature– be sure to turn it down a hair when this happens, to prevent it from actually boiling. You don’t want any boil or bubble because this will tear apart your fragile egg.
Once the water is hot, use your slotted spoon to swirl the water in a circle, like a whirlpool. This carries the egg around, and then wraps the loose whites around it, keeping everything together. You will lose stray pieces of white– don’t fret, all is well. So swirl your water and crack your egg, then drop it’s lovely contents into the hot water, and let it rest. Everything will look a little chaotic and loose at first, but then as the translucent egg begins to whiten, you will calm.
The best way to know when the egg is done is to touch it, either by spoon or finger, and feel the doneness with your own hands. I like a firm, completely cooked white, and a silky yolk. By lifting the egg up to the surface of the water with a slotted spoon and touching it gently you will feel the progression of the egg as it cooks.
At first everything will feel smooth and soft, as if it would fall apart completely under your touch. As it cooks longer the white will feel more and more firm, with the yolk still giving underneath. One might say you could set a timer to have your egg cooked just right– but water temperatures and egg thicknesses vary. Your own senses are the most reliable tools you have.
Poached eggs are delicious served with cooked greens. Spinach works beautifully for this. When cooked spinach is silky, emerald green, and deliciously fresh. Mixed with browned onions and fresh herbs this spinach is just the bite of freshness needed to cut through the richness of the egg.
Of all the ways to cook an egg, poached eggs are the best. If you are weary of giving it a try, I hope this post can give you just the hint of encouragement you need. It took me an awful lot of tries for my hands to learn the method, but a little time and patience is all you really need to make it happen.
Sautéed Spinach served with poached eggs
You will need:
- 2 cups chopped baby spinach
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- pinch red pepper flake
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, salt, and cook until fragrant and translucent. Stir in spinach, herbs, red pepper, and any additional salt. Cook until spinach is wilted and the flavors have come together. Serve alongside poached eggs and hearty bread.