Poached eggs are cooked in barely simmering water. The shells are cracked and the eggs are allowed to cook in the water until the whites are firm but the yolk still runny. I never poached eggs in water. I used to cook them in simmering meat broth. But because I am on a low-fat diet now, I am discovering other ways to poach an egg.
Try poaching your egg in dashi. Then, sprinkle it with salt and freshly ground sichuan peppercorns.
Dashi? Yes, the stuff used for making miso soup. Dashi is fish stock made from edible kelp and a salted fish called bonito. Dashi in granule form (more like coarse powder, actually) is available in the Oriental section of some supermarkets.
Sichuan peppercorns? Sichuan pepper is not related to the chili so it isn’t real pepper, stricly speaking. Wikipedia says it is the outer pod of a tiny fruit grown widely in Asia. For some reason, when combined with salt, the result is wonderful.
If the whites of the egg in the photo look all spread out instead of forming an almost perfect circle around the yolk, well see, the fresher the egg, the less likely that the whites will spread out. But it’s hard to tell just how fresh the eggs are on the supermarket shelf. I go by the “best before” date. I choose the tray with the farthest “best before” date. But, even then, you don’t really know how long the eggs have been sitting there.
Does that mean that McDonald’s and Jollibee use only the freshest eggs because their breakfast meals have these perfect circles of egg? Not necessarily. If you use ring molds (like a round cookie cutter in appearance but made of metal), you still get perfectly-shaped eggs even if they’re not that fresh. Place the ring mold on a hot griddle or frying pan, crack the egg inside the ring and, once firm, remove the ring. Some use ring molds for presentation purposes; others do it to hide the evidence of not-so-fresh eggs.
It’s basic. It’s supposed to be the simplest thing, cooking an egg. But you’d be surprised at how many ways eggs can be prepared. Let’s not even include the fancy dishes. Let’s stick with the basics — fried eggs and boiled eggs. Take scrambled eggs, for instance. If you’ve seen a Japanese cook rolling scrambled eggs in a traditional square pan, you’d think you’re seeing an artist at work. The first time I saw it done, I felt so uncivilized with the way I just pour beaten eggs into a hot buttered pan, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and that’s that.
What about hard-boiled eggs? They’re just uncracked eggs cooked in boiling water, right? Yes, basically, but if you’ve seen and eaten Chinese tea eggs (unshelled version here), hard-boiled eggs become something quite exotic. You can even achieve the same marbled effect by cooking the eggs in adobo sauce. Try my adobo eggs — they look like Chinese tea eggs but taste of adobo.
I love eggs. It’s a comfort food for me. My father used to buy fresh duck eggs when I was a kid and I miss them terribly. Hard to find fresh duck eggs these days but chicken eggs are always a-plenty. Just need to experiment more on different ways to cook them. :)