Poach like a Pro

Over the years I’ve unsuccessfully tried to conquer the seemingly easy cooking technique for poaching eggs.  My first cooking lesson ever, in fact, was at the hand of my West Virginia grandmother, Effie May, who used an aluminum, single-egg poaching pan every morning of her life for breakfast.

Naturally, I really yearned to make it like the chefs do, free wheeling the egg into a pan of simmering water and having it retain its perfect shape.  But, each time, the egg would fall apart.

Finally, after successive failed attempts I resigned myself.  Potato salad, fried chicken and poached eggs were just not to be for me, the aspiring home cook. 

Then, one day recently—given the current mania for poached eggs on every menu—I couldn’t stand defeat any longer. With my printed directions from Blue Apron (the meal kit I use three times a week) for “Poach like a Pro,” I set out to give it another try.  Again, disappointing results.

I even asked the cook at my local dive diner, who makes a mean poached egg, what his secret was.  In his broken English, he walked me through the process—the same one we all know. 

What was I doing wrong?  I looked at my cookbooks for an answer.  I googled it, too, and finally realized the missing detail. If you don’t start with a fresh egg, it is hopeless.  Or, almost.

Julia Child—my goddess of cooking—offers a fool-proof technique when eggs are not at their freshest.  Make a hole in the eggshell with a pin and then boil the egg for 10 seconds.  After removing it from the water and allowing it to cool a bit, it can be cracked and poured back into the same simmering water to which vinegar has been added. Stir the water gently in a circular motion so that the egg doesn’t settle to the bottom.  Poach for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the egg. 

Remove with a slotted spoon onto a piece of paper towel to drain. Serve immediately. Then, as Julia would say in her iconic, crackly voice, “Bon Appétit!”