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Poach to Perfection!

Daring Cooks
December 2010

Hello! This is Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill (jillouci), and we are so excited to be your hosts for the month of December! We can’t wait to see what you all come up with. For this month, we decided to focus on a technique that seems intimidating to many, but with a little practice it’s really not that hard at all – poaching. All poaching means is cooking something in simmering (not boiling) water. And what more perfect way to practice the skill of poaching than learning how to poach an egg? They can make a tasty breakfast, or salad accompaniment; there are so many different ways to use poached eggs, and they are used in cuisines from a variety of cultures.

Download the printable .pdf file HERE

The 1st recipe is one of the most well known poached egg dishes: eggs benedict – an open sandwich of English muffin, Canadian bacon, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. This rich and decadent dish can be served as a really nice breakfast or brunch for having company over, and is sure to impress! The “daring” with this dish is in successfully poaching an egg in water, as well as making one of the famed mother sauces of France, the hollandaise.

Our 2nd recipe, oeufs en meurette (eggs in meurette sauce), is a classic dish from the region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) in France. It involves poaching an egg in a red wine/stock, which will then turn into a fabulous reduction sauce. One serves the poached egg on top of fried croûtes with sauce, bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions. This is also a great dish for breakfast/brunch as well.

And don’t worry vegans, we did not forget about you! Instead of poaching an egg, we found a delicious poached homemade seitan sausage recipe that we think you will love!

We hope you enjoy this month’s challenge, and have fun poaching!

Recipe Sources:
Eggs Benedict: Hollandaise sauce by Alton Brown
Oeufs en Meurette: From Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, seen on Epicurious
Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages: From Trudy of Veggie num num

Blog-checking lines: Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Posting Date: December 14, 2010

Download the printable. pdf file HERE

Notes:
Poaching an egg is not very difficult technique-wise, it really is all about the timing and there are a few tricks that can help.

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• Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible. Farm-fresh eggs will make for the best poached eggs. Old eggs will have a harder time with the whites spreading out all over the place when you place the egg in the water.

• Adding a bit of vinegar or acidic agent to your water will help stabilize the eggs and cook the whites faster, and keeping your water just below boiling point (about 190F) will help keep the fragile eggs from all the boiling bubble action rupturing the eggs. Also make sure to salt your poaching water well.

• The other main key to success is to crack your egg into a small bowl first, taking care not to break the yolk. Then it becomes easy to gently slide the entire egg into the water for the poaching process. Some people will also suggest swirling the poaching liquid into a bit of a vortex before sliding the egg in, in order to help keep the egg whites together. I’ve found it works fine whether or not you do this step.

• A poached egg is done when the whites are fully cooked and the yolk has just started to solidify but is still runny when you cut it open – usually three minutes. It’s ok to go a little longer though depending on your desired firmness. I like mine so the edges of yolks are cooking but the inside is still runny, so I usually let them go 30s longer.

• You can poach eggs ahead of time (about a day). Just immerse them in ice water after poaching, and then keep them in a bowl of water in the fridge. When you are ready to use them, place them in hot (not boiling) water until they are warmed through.

Mandatory Items: To use the technique of poaching an egg (or vegan substitute) in either one of the recipes listed below or your own creative take on the challenge. But whatever you do MUST involve the technique of poaching.

Variations allowed: Three recipes involving poaching are provided. Two that involve poaching eggs, and one that poaches seitan sausage to be vegan friendly. If you have not made eggs benedict or oeufs en meurette before, we really encourage you to try one of the listed recipes. However, if dietary restrictions lead you in a different direction, you are already a pro at those recipes, or just have something waiting to burst from your creative hat, we would love to see what poached egg dishes you come up with!

The link to Veggie Num Num’s seitan sausage recipe includes instructions for creamy polenta and tomato sauce, but feel free to use whatever recipes to accompany the sausages that you like, or none at all. I made my own polenta and some tomato sauce I canned earlier this summer, and it was fabulous, but this sausage would be good in so many preparations.

Preparation time:
Eggs Benedict: 20 minutes
Oeufs en Meurette: 60 – 90 minutes
Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages: 80 minutes to prepare the sausages; 30 minutes more if you make the polenta and tomato sauce and fry the sausages.

Equipment required:
Generally for poaching eggs you need:
• Large shallow pan
• Small bowl (for cracking eggs into)
• Large slotted spoon for lifting out poached eggs
• Timer

For Eggs Benedict:
• Double boiler (for the hollandaise)
• Alternatively a saucepan and heat proof mixing bowl that is large enough to sit on top
• Toaster or oven for toasting English muffins
• Frying pan for cooking bacon
• Thermos, carafe, or bowl (in which to keep the hollandaise warm)

For Oeufs en Meurette:
• Large shallow pan/pot for poaching
• Medium saucepan for sautéing, and then for frying the croûtes
• Paper towels

For Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages:
• Deep sauté pan or stock pot
• Small and large mixing bowls
• Food processor (optional)
• 4 pieces of cheesecloth (30 x 30 cm) (see note)
• 8 pieces of kitchen twine (8 in. each)

Eggs Benedict
Serves 4

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Ingredients
4 eggs (size is your choice)
2 English muffins*
4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer)
Chives, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

For the hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 Tbl. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces º
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
* for gluten free, use gluten free English muffins or bread of your choice
º for dairy free, use a dairy free margarine

Directions:

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.

3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

4. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using).

7. Keep the hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.

8. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.

9. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water.

10. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.

11. While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon and toast your English muffin.

12. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy!

Oeufs en Meurette
Serves 8

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If you wish to halve this recipe, make sure to adjust your large shallow pan size accordingly so that you have enough depth for poaching your eggs. The poached eggs and the meurette sauce can be made up to a day in advance. Just take care store the poached eggs in a bowl of water in the fridge, and the meurette sauce can be easily reheated.

Ingredients
8 eggs (size is your choice)
1 bottle red wine (750ml/25 fl. oz.)
2 cups (400ml/16 fl. oz.) chicken stock*‡
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3g) black peppercorns
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30g) butter°
¼ lb. (115g) mushrooms, sliced
¼ lb (115g) bacon, diced‡
16 pearl onions, peeled (200g/7oz.)
Vegetable oil for frying
8 slices of baguette, ¼” (6mm) thick
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30g) butter, room temp.°
2 Tbl. (30 ml/20g) flour *
salt and pepper
*for gluten free make sure to use gluten free stock and gluten free flour
‡ for vegetarian use vegetable stock, and omit bacon.
° for dairy free use a dairy free margarine.

Other notes on ingredients:
• You can use salted or unsalted butter, you will just have to adjust your “salt & pepper to taste” accordingly. I use unsalted.
• As this is a Burgundian dish, a full-bodied red wine like a pinot noir is a great wine to use for this dish. Anne Willan recommends a fruity red wine and I personally love the way a bold pinot noir works with this sauce, though you certainly can use whatever you like best. She also notes that you can make ouefs au mersault. Mersault is the famed white wine region of Bourgogne, and is generally made using chardonnay grapes, so it would be ok to choose a white wine if you want (though I have never tried it with white). No matter what wine you choose, make sure it is not too dry nor too sweet.
• To make a bouquet garni, just take the herbs (a few sprigs of each) and tie them together into a little bundle. Since the sauce will reduce for a while, it’s ok if you don’t have the fresh herbs – there will be time for flavor to come out of dried ones (for ex. fresh bay leaf may be hard to find). Alternatively, if you don’t have a way to tie them, you could just add the whole sprigs/bay leaves to the sauce and then just make sure to remove them when the sauce is done reducing.

Directions:

1. Heat wine and stock together in a large pan and poach eggs a couple at a time for 3-4 min. Yolks should be firming but still a little soft. Set them aside.

2. Add the veggies, herbs, and peppercorns to the poaching liquid and let the sauce simmer until reduced to half volume. This will become the meurette sauce.

3. In a separate large skillet, melt 1 tbs. (15ml/15g) of the butter on medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms until soft and then set aside. Add in another 1 tbs. (15ml/15g) butter and the bacon, frying until browned, then set aside on a paper towel. Turn down the heat to medium, add in the pearl onions and sauté until softened and browned. Then drain off the fat and add the bacon and mushrooms back to the pan and set aside off the heat for the moment.

4. In a medium skillet, heat a few tbs. of oil and then fry the baguette slices until browned on each side. Add more oil as needed. Set the fried bread (croûtes) on a paper towel and then place on a baking sheet in an oven that is set to 200F/95C/gas mark 1/4 or whatever your lowest setting is to keep them warm.

5. Blend 2 Tbl. (30ml/30g) butter and flour together to form a paste of sorts that will be used as the thickener for the sauce. Whisk this into the reduction sauce until the sauce starts to thicken.
Strain the sauce over the skillet of mushrooms, bacon and onions, and return the skillet to heat, bringing to a boil. Season with salt & pepper to taste, then set aside again.

6. Reheat the eggs by placing them in hot water for a quick minute. To serve, plate a poached egg on top of a croûte, and then ladle some of the mushrooms/bacon/onions and sauce on top.

Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages
Makes 8 sausages

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Ingredients
¼ cup (60ml/150 g/5.3 oz.) pine nuts, toasted
½ a red onion (I used a full onion)
1 red chili (I used a ripe jalapeño from my garden)
1 cup (240 ml/75 g/2-2/3 oz.) whole sundried tomatoes
¼ cup (60 ml/2 fl. oz.) olive oil
1¼ cups (300 ml/10 fl. oz.) vegetable stock
2 Tbl. (30 ml/30 g) tomato paste
2½ cups (600 ml/250 g/½ lb.) vital wheat gluten (gluten flour)
1 tsp. (5ml/4 g) dried thyme
1 tsp. (5ml/4 g) paprika

For the poaching liquid:
6+ cups (1.5+ L/51+ fl. oz.) vegetable stock
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves

Additional notes:
• Cheesecloth can be found at most major grocery stores, hardware stores, and home stores. If you don’t have and can’t find cheesecloth, you could use any thin, clean (undyed and untreated) permeable cloth, gauze, cotton flour sack towel, coffee filters (for smaller sausages), or maybe even clean socks you don’t care about staining.
• Vital wheat gluten can be purchased online from Amazon, or you can try making it yourself from whole wheat flour (see additional information).

Directions:

1. Place 6 cups of stock, the crushed garlic cloves, and the bay leaves in a deep sauté pan or stock pot (you may need to add additional stock to cover the sausages). Heat on medium.

2. Toast the pine nuts.

3. Finely mince the pine nuts, red onion, chili, and sundried tomatoes (a food processor works well here).

4. Whisk the 1¼ cups of stock with the tomato paste and olive oil in a small bowl.

5. Combine the vital wheat gluten with the dried thyme (I left this out because I didn’t have any!), paprika, and pine nut/onion/chili/sundried tomato mixture.

6. Slowly add the stock/olive oil/tomato paste to the vital wheat gluten. Mix until you have a smooth dough. You will probably not need to add all the liquid. I added maybe ¾ of the liquid and the result was a rather wet dough. Whatever liquid you have left can be added to the poaching liquid.

7. Divide the dough into four portions. Each quarter will make a sausage about 10 inches (25 cm) long. You have a couple of shaping options here. You can make four 10 inch (25 cm) sausages, or 8 smaller ones. I made 10 inch sausages, tied off both ends, then twisted the middle to form two sausage links. This made each side a little tighter, and made it easier to fit them in my pot. Any way you choose, make sure you wrap each section tightly in the cheesecloth and tie off the ends with twine. Keep in mind, also, that the seitan will swell a little as it cooks, so the sausages will become fatter.

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8. If the poaching liquid is not yet boiling, turn up the heat until it does. Add the sausages and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer gently for 45–50 minutes, or until the sausages are firm.

9. Remove the sausages from the poaching liquid (reserve the liquid if you don’t plan on eating all the sausages immediately). Allow the sausages to cool a little and gently unwrap. These may be refrigerated in their poaching liquid for a week.

Additional Information:

Culinary Institute of America tutorial on eggs benedict including homemade English muffins, poaching eggs, and making hollandaise sauce:
http://www.ciaculinaryintelligence.com/2009/04/eggs-benedict-for-mothers-day-brunch.html

Epicurious video tutorial on hollandaise:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGw_gs8UaeI

A tutorial for making seitan from whole wheat flour:
http://forkable.blogspot.com/2008/07/courtesy-of-toliveandeatinla.html
To make the sausages this way, I’d try kneading the recipe ingredients in by hand once most of the excess starch has been rinsed away.

Disclaimer:
The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of gluten-free ingredients. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. Please consult your physician with any questions before using a product you are not familiar with. Thank you! Smile

JennCuisine
jillouci
Foodnetwork.com, Cooking with Wine & Epicurious.com, Veggie num num Blog
Alton Brown, Anne Willan, Trudy