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Monday, May 16, 2011

Poached Eggs and Home Economics

Nigel, being the odd fellow that he is, has several quirks of nature.  One such quirk is his apparent obsession that I learn how to be a proper housewife.  Mind you, I am not his wife, nor do I plan to be.  We also live in separate houses when we are not travelling and I did, in fact, go to finishing school.  It is one thing to not know how to behave, it is another to know, yet choose not to do so.

During our travels, he will occasionally purchase me a book or two on this subject, as if most women from our time do not already possess a receipt book of some sort!  Recently, he added to my collection Carlotta Greer's "Your Home And You", which will be published in 1943.  He just returned from what he called a "dismal affair", which I will leave for him to explain when he feels prepared for it.

In an attempt to humor him, I am reading this text.  I do find it interesting to note the many similarities and differences between these books.  How items that seem so uncommon, special, and new may have been so common in a previous era.  One such example is the use of watercress in sandwiches and salads.  In some eras, these items seem to be considered classy and a sign of one's culinary finesse, while in previous eras it may have been considered an every day item.  Other examples of this would be the soybeans, risottos, and polenta, all of which were considered at one time to be the food of the poor or rustic fare, and at other times were (or will be) considered the height of culinary fashion.

Speaking of which, if you hear Nigel claim that something is a delicacy, I would reconsider the food item he is offering.  "Delicacy" does not always mean appealing.  Usually, if you are not part of the culture that considers the food items as such, that "delicacy" may outright offend your conditioned culinary taboos.  Of course there were a few that I rather enjoyed...

As an aside, am I wrong for finding it odd that schools will be relied upon to teach children to cook and clean house?  During my upbringing, we learned from watching our mothers or our house cooks.  We learned from maids, tutors or our governesses if our families could afford them.  What schools the girls could attend taught mathmetics, spelling, and other academic skills.  For household lessons, we may seek out the persons mentioned previously, or friends and relatives to teach us or follow the guidance of our Receipt books.  Do people of later eras simply forget how to teach their children the simple tasks necessary for daily existence in a civilized society?  From what I found, these institutions are being relied upon more and more with each decade to teach the most basic of home maintenance and management, such as cooking, sewing, child rearing with the help of dolls or hollowed eggs, cleaning, and so forth.

I will try out some of the cooking suggestions and recipes in Ms. Greer's book and will write of anything I find that is worth while.  I tried to poach eggs in the way that she states, but found they didn't work out as well as my usual method.  I must admit, however, that when I reread her method, I discovered that I did not follow it as much as I thought I did.  I will try again, with the book at ready, to see if her method improves on what I already consider a wonderful food item.

More about poached eggs and my method of cooking them as follows...

Here is the result of my not-so-diligent following of Ms. Greer's method.
The poached egg is shown as part of a korean dish called Bibimbap.
Unfortunately, I had already cut the egg open before obtaining an image.

This is a previous dish I made using my usual method for Poached Eggs.
It is shown with a baked potato topped with a thick cheese soup.

My normal method of cooking poached eggs is much like my usual style of cooking quick dishes.  Nigel has deemed it as haphazard.  Something about a whirlwind or tornado or some-such.

Poached eggs are wonderful with baked or mashed potatoes.  I also eat it with white or fried rice, gluten free toast, porridge, grits, over vegetables, added to soups, stews, salads, and so forth.  Sometimes, I will make a hollandaise sauce to serve with the poached eggs.

Poached Eggs
Eggs (preferably room temperature)
Apple cider vinegar

Fill a small to medium sauce pan with enough water so eggs will have room to be covered, perferable to "float" freely.  Add a splash of the vinegar (about a tablespoon or two).  Bring the water to a boil; turn down eat so it simmers.  Break an egg carefully over water so they will gently drop into the water near the heat bubbles.  (I normally work with one or two eggs at a time.)  When the egg whites look firm on the outside, use a slotted spoon to gently lift it out of the water.  To test if the egg is done, gently press the area of the yolk with your finger.  The egg white should be firm to touch but the yolk should be soft underneath.  If the egg feels too soft, return it to the water for a little while longer.  If done, set on plate or in a bowl in preparation to serve.    The egg should be done within 3 to 5 minutes of being introduced to the water.

Because I become restless while cooking these, I will sometimes use the slotted spoon to gently direct any egg white "strands" back to the main bulk of the egg while the egg is poaching.  I will also "roll" the egg gently, halfway through the cooking process (when the egg white looks firm enough) to help create the pleasing shape and to assist in even cooking. 

If an egg is older, it will have more egg white "strands".  Though a bit unsightly, They are still edible.  You can either place the egg so the strands are covered by the bulk, or you can cut them from the bulk of the poached egg. Part of the appeal of a poached egg is that it resembles a cloud or a dallop of whipped cream.

Instead of vinegar, other acidic juices may be used.  Madame Landbouwer recommended tomato juice.  I've also heard of people using wine, and even some using milk... though it seems an awful waste of milk (and wine).  Some people also prefer to break the egg into a bowl before introducing it to the liquid, in case the egg is spoiled or to protect the cooking liquid if the yolk sac breaks before introduction to the liquid.

1 comment:

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