Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daring Cooks December Challenge - Poached Eggs

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.

I absolutely loved this month’s Daring Cooks challenge. Poaching is one of my favourite ways of preparing eggs. Often, I serve them for weekend brunch, on top of smoked salmon- or goat cheese-topped English muffins. Sometimes, I make them for dinner. I just love the texture of the firm white, and runny yolk – and it’s just about the healthiest cooking method you can think of.

It took me a really long time to master the poaching technique, but it’s been a while since I’ve had a real failure. The secret really does lie in adding vinegar to the water, which prevents the whites from spreading all over the place. For the rest, it’s really just a question of practicing and getting a feel for it.

However, this challenge still had a lot to teach me, as one of the challenge recipes was eggs Benedict, which I’d never made per se. Somehow, just knowing what hollandaise sauce consists of (mainly egg yolks and a whole lot of butter) made me shy away from making it, even though I’ve had it in restaurants. But part of me has always wanted to give it a shot, and this challenge gave me that extra bit of incentive I needed.

Hollandaise is basically a hot mayonnaise, with butter instead of oil. I’ve always been lucky with homemade mayonnaise, in that it has rarely ever failed on me. Apparently, this luck applied to hollandaise sauce as well: the emulsion thickened and held together without any trouble. I also made English muffins for the first time, and, while they were a bit too heavy, they had the right taste and texture. I made the so-called Scandinavian version of eggs Benedict, with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. It was really delicious, and the sauce was rich and creamy. I added a side of asparagus, which also go well with hollandaise.

Since I completed the challenge early, I had time left to experiment at bit. I tried something I’d been wanting to attempt for a long time, even though it’s not technically poaching: onsen tamago, or hot-spring eggs. In Japan, these eggs are left to cook, in their shell, for a long time in natural hot spring water, which is below boiling point. As a result, the eggs cook more evenly than when they are soft-boiled: the white is still quite soft, almost slimy, while the yolk is runny, but firm enough not to break when you crack the egg.

Since I (sadly) do not have access to a hot spring, I cooked the egs following these instructions. Onsen tamago are often served in soups, or sometimes just on their own. I served mine on rice, with stir-fried shiitake mushrooms. The egg mixed in with the rice for, giving it a rich flavour.

Finally, I tried poaching something other than eggs: salmon. I used this recipe, in which salmon is poached in a mixture of white beer and cream. It was pretty good, although next time I would alter the cream/beer ratio, as the beer flavour wasn’t all that obvious. Also, I had some issues with my camera that day, so the picture is a little icky.

This was definitely one of my favourite challenges. Thanks, Jenn and Jill!

Please check out the challenge recipes at the Daring Kitchen, and go through the Daring Cooks’ blogroll, to see what the other cooks have been up to this month.


  1. All of your egg creations look beautiful! Eggs Benedict is truly an awesome dish, in my opinion. :D Great job with this challenge!

  2. All of your tasty egg's recipes look so delcious, dear Valérie!!

    I especially love to indulge from time to time in Poached eggs with Holandaise sauce, I love Egg's Benedict! yummie!

  3. It all looks fantastic, but I have got to try the onsen tamago! I think it would be perfect with my rice and natto. Oh, and I agree about the hollandaise: delicious, but best not thought about!

  4. Oooh gorgeous, all of the recipes!!! The onsen tomago is really interesting!! Great job on the challenge!

  5. Oh the white beer and cream to poached the salmon sounds excellent. Love your Japanese version too. Yep I had issues making the Hollandaise just on the fact of knowing the butter content!

  6. It seems to have been a favourite challenge for everyone so far. I have loved reading all of the posts on this topic and your pictures are mouth watering. I never poach eggs - so interesting to hear it takes awhile to perfect the technique. That doesn't really surprise me. I must start!