This post is going to seem like a lot of talk about brunch in New York City. It is. But really it’s about eggs so bear with me.
I don’t often make eggs. I like eggs when I bake or when I need hamburgers to stick together, but I don’t often have a hankering for eggs as a centerpiece for a meal. Seemingly simple, eggs take a bit of finesse. Flipping that omelette neatly? Unlikely. Making a hard-boiled egg without the ring between the yolk and white? Mostly, but not always. Basically, I’d rather have cereal. And if I’m going to make brunch at home, I’m going with chocolate chip pancakes.
However, although it’s rare I always really, really want eggs when I go out for brunch.
In New York, brunch is a big deal. It’s what people do on Sunday morning. When I lived in New York my favorite brunch was the basil and goat cheese egg dish from Good in the West Village. The eggs are fluffy, the basil is fragrant and fresh, and the cheese is gooey and delicious. The eggs are truly decadent and wonderful. Also, in case you’re interested, my favorite brunch Bloody Mary is at Home, also in the West Village. It is the right amount of spicy and it has a pickle in it!! Yum. Now all this rambling about New York brunch isn’t totally out of the blue. It’s brunch in New York that got me interested in poached eggs.
Years ago before I lived in New York, Ryan and I went to the city a few weeks before Christmas. The city was wonderful! There was snow on the streets, decorations in the shops, and although super crowded the people on the street had a festive and happy atmosphere. At the end of the weekend, we met up with my friend Inga, and her boyfriend – now husband, Jonathan for brunch at Jane (also in the Village, sorry I like that area). It was my very first New York City brunch. I know it sounds silly, but the streets of New York are relatively empty on Sunday mornings until 11am when people stream out for brunch. People wait up to an hour to eat at their favorite place. And brunch can be at a trendy spot, it can be outside in a cafe people watching, it can be in a dingy dive bar that still smells like last night’s beer and drinking mistakes. And so another recommendation, if you can stomach the stale beer smell, the Sunburnt Cow has great steak and eggs and a bottomless mimosa. I’ve been to brunch to catch up with out of town friends, I’ve seen famous people (Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family), and I’ve done it to avoid writing my thesis. Brunch is an important social event and if you’re a tourist and you want a real New York feel, I think brunch is what you should do.
Anyway, back to Jane. It is a serious delicious place to eat! When I lived in New York, Ryan and I went there one year for Valentine’s Day. We treated ourselves to the works and when it came time to order dessert we ordered milk & cookies. All night we had seen these giant cookies with fat chunks of chocolate chips, cups of frothy vanilla ice cream, and tiny cups of icy milk pass by. So when the waitress asked for our order, we asked for TWO milk & cookies. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, a day for love and sharing but that dessert looked too darn good to share. And I assert, that’s real love. We loved each other enough to be honest, to go for the indulgence, and to be comfortable enough to leave the restaurant waddling and explosively full.
The Eggs Benedict at Jane are also memorable years later – and I didn’t even order them. Jonathan and Ryan ordered the Eggs Benedict. When they got their meals the two them were all “ooo’s,” “ahhh’s,” and eyes rolling back in to their heads. They made it seem like the kind of deliciousness where you have to put your utensils down, stop, and emphatically moan “MMMM!” I had never had a poached egg before and when I got to try it, I fell in love. It was fluffy, well cooked, but still liquidy on the inside. And it was pretty looking! It was round, bouncy, and bright white. I was obviously intimidated. But my life was changed. I loved poached eggs and I loved brunch.
It had to be difficult to make! How could it be so delicious, perfectly cooked, and nice looking without being difficult? Going forward, I ordered poached eggs when I was out, but never really looked into it how to make it own my own. And it wasn’t until the last two years that I really started cooking anyway. And of course, as I said, I prefer cereal so I don’t make eggs at home. But I thought about it a lot.
Opportunity presented itself last week and I couldn’t put off trying any longer. I had a closing shift and didn’t have to be at work until 1:00pm, so I had plenty of time to cook and clean up after myself. Also, we were pretty much out of cereal. So no excuses, I was making eggs. And it came out well, wasn’t nearly as hard or scary as I thought it would be, and it was yummy.
I looked to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and Alice Waters’ In the Green Kitchen, for guidance on how to poach eggs. Sorry for another digression, but I strongly recommend How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It has basic recipes, add-on suggestions for how to spice up dishes, and easy to use language and pictures that explain how to do more difficult techniques. Also, it’s great when you have an ingredient you aren’t sure what to do with. I can always flip through the book and find something to do with that funny vegetable or a way to update chicken breasts.
And we’re back. One book called for using a skillet and the other called for “pan.” I tried both, using a deep skillet and a small sauce pan. I cooked the egg for the same time in both vessels (5 minutes). I found that in the skillet the egg came out lighter, fluffier, and the yolk was still runny, which I like. In the sauce pan, the egg came out a little prettier, but it was dense and the yolk wasn’t runny. Going forward I think I’d either use the skillet again, or I’d use the sauce pan but cook for fewer minutes. You just can’t get as much water in a skillet, so what you use really depends on what sort of tools you have at your disposal. But, at the core you need at least enough water so that the egg is completely submerged. I wouldn’t go beyond using 3 inches of water.
Before I get on with the directions, I wanted to share some posts I’m working on for the future. I’m working on a post on sushi. I’ve made it twice before, but want to do it once more so I can take step by step pictures. Ryan and I are also going to try to make mozzarella cheese. We also just got back from a long weekend in Montreal so I’m planning to share all my eating adventures.
1 tsp salt (or less if you like)
1 tsp vinegar (optional – I used it)
1. Fill a pan with 1-2 inches of water.2. Bring the water to a boil.
3. Add the salt and vinegar. Lower the heat so the water is barely simmer. Few to no bubbles should be coming the surface. If you see the bubbles on the bottom of the pan as if they are threatening to rise, that’s ok.
4. While you’re waiting for the water to cool a bit, crack the egg into a separate bowl.
5. Once the water is ready, tilt the bowl so it’s level to the water and slide the egg into the pan. I did it so that the edge of the bowl was a little bit in the water and then I slid the egg in.
6. Cook for 3-5 minutes. To tell if the egg is done, use a slotted spoon to lift out the egg. Use your finger to gently press on the yolk to see if it’s set to your liking and to test that the white is cooked.
7. When it is done use a slotted spoon to remove the egg. If necessary, drain the egg on a paper towel or clean dish towel.
Mark Bittman recommends only cooking one egg at a time. I think this is partially so there can be enough space for the egg. If you look at the picture of the egg in the water you can see the egg white is also swirly and slightly up to the top of the water. I think it’s also because the level of the heat is so important that two eggs wouldn’t get enough heat if they were in there together. In summation, it was delicious, easy, and I didn’t make any mess. Amazing right?!