Yolking Around

Ramen, made perfect with a poached egg at Momofuku
photo: Nina Lalli

Poached eggs are the perfect accessory for any meal—not just breakfast. Especially when I'm broke, my favorite dinner is brown rice with leftover kale or broccoli rabe, and a poached egg (sometimes two) on top. Peasants the world over have always replaced meat with eggs for dinner. The Italian dish, "Eggs in Purgatory," is a perfect, simple example: Eggs poached in tomato sauce, with a thick piece of toast to sop it up. (Try it at Bar Pitti.)

Health freaks and alarmist local news anchors, on the other hand, have long slandered nature's perfect food, whether the topic is yolk or white, cholesterol or salmonella. I've never been shy around a raw yolk—that's just not how I was raised—but the risk is a personal choice. (The Department of Agriculture recently found that only one in 30,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella, and scientists say that risk is even lower in organic eggs, because the chickens themselves are healthier. Buy organic—"all natural" doesn't mean anything).

New Yorkers know poached eggs are not just for Sunday brunch. At Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton sneaks a poached egg inside a pasta "handkerchief," along with a thin slice of French ham, and a few leaves of arugula. She sprinkles shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and toasted pignoli nuts over the little bundle of joy and finishes with some brown butter. At Momofuku, a lovable bowl of ramen is made perfect with a poached egg that gives a rich coating to the noodles. And Wichcraft's runny egg, marinated white anchovy, and roasted onion sandwich with frisée will make you forget all about that bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll at your deli.


Poaching 101

Poaching eggs is not hard. You don't need any gadgets or years of experience as a short-order cook. The key is shallow water and avoiding rapid boiling (which is likely to break your yolk). You can do it.

In a straight-sided saut� pan (or a small pot), bring about 4 inches of water barely to a simmer (continue to adjust the heat as you go to keep it from evolving into a full boil). Crack one egg into a small dish and slide it into the water from close above, being careful not to burn yourself. Let the egg cook just until the white part is completely opaque. Practice turning the egg over once, though it is not imperative to do so. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and rest the bottom of the spoon on paper towel for a moment to absorb excess water. Slide that egg onto a salad, some noodles—whatever's for dinner. With a little bit of practice you will be able to do a few at once.


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