Recipe comfort: Slow Poached Eggs
Here’s a recipe I’ve been searching for since having a wonderful brunch at a Japanese bakery in the Outer Richmond, Cassava. I’d ordered the “Japanese Breakfast” from the menu, and the standout dish was a sous vide poached egg.
Japanese Breakfast ( $10 )
Koshihikari plum rice, ichiban dashi miso soup, sous vide “onsen tamago” poached egg, Myer lemon kosho natto, wakame salad, simmered hijiki
Here’s a recipe we found online for Slow Poached Eggs, adapted from Chef David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku restaurant cookbook by:
Slow-poached Eggs Recipe
But none of those things kept me from trying out more recipes, and I struck pay dirt with the slow-poached egg recipe. Meehan did a splendid job conveying Chang’s fervor over the utter simplicity of the cooking process, which originated in Japan with old ladies who took to multitasking at the natural hot springs. They soaked themselves while slow-cooking eggs in 141F hot baths. The finished eggs hold a wonderful elliptical shape (in the photo above) that charms and excites all at once. The yolk is barely cooked and remains runny so that you can enjoy their unctuous essence. At Momofuku Noodle Bar, the slow-cooked eggs are added to ramen and fried too.
I slow poached all the eggs I had – 8 total – and ate them over the course of several days. I don’t usually eat that many eggs in a week but it was fun to play around with them. Then I had to eat them. Thank G.O.D. Rory was around to help.
To give you a sense of my thinking process when using a restaurant chef’s recipe, I’m providing Momofuku’s slow-poached egg recipe verbatim but with [my annotated text in brackets]:
Large eggs, as many as you like [as fresh as you can get, organic, free range, all the quality you can afford]
1. Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and put it on the stove over the lowest possible heat. [If you have a 5,000 BTU burner for simmering, that works perfectly.]
2. Use something to keep the eggs from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where the temperature will be highest. If you’ve got a cake rack or a steamer rack, use it. If not, improvise: a doughnut or aluminum foil or a few chopsticks scattered helter skelter across the bottom of the pan will usually do the trick, but you know what you’ve got lying around. Be resourceful. [Chang and Meehan know that this is a potential obstacle for home cooks and their encouragement is great. You don’t need much to MacGyver the cooking set-up. I used a heavy-bottomed 8-quart stockpot and a collapsible steamer rack to elevate and cradle the eggs. A deep 4-quart pot would have done the trick too. Any pot that will hold eggs in 1 layer and will fit a rack of some sort; or do the foil coil. You have to keep the eggs submerged for 45 minutes. Think of the Japanese ladies in their hot springs!]
3. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature in the pot – if it’s too hot, add cold water or an ice cube. Once the water is between 140 and 145F, add the eggs to the pot. Let them bathe for 40 to 45 minutes, checking the temperature regularly with the thermometer or by sticking your finger in the water (it should be the temperature of a very hot bath) and moderating it as needed. [On a home stove’s simmer burner, achieving the low water temperature and maintaining it is easy. I just clipped my deep-fry thermometer on to gauge the temperature and then stuck my finger into the water to double check. Set a timer. My temperature fell below 140 for about 10 minutes so I adjusted the temperature and then bathed them for longer. It’s not rocket science though vigilance is required.]
4. You can use the eggs immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. (If you’re planning on storing them, chill them until cold in an ice-water bath.) If you refrigerate the eggs, warm them under piping hot tap water for 1 minute before using. [I kept the eggs around for 4 days. Before using them, I returned them to room temperature by letting them sit out for about 1 hour. If I served them as warm poached eggs, I boiled a saucepan of water, then let it cool for about 15 minutes, then let the egg sit in the hot water for 1 minute.]
5. To serve the eggs, crack them one at a time into a small saucer. The thin white will not and should be firm or solid; tip the dish to pour off and discard the loosest part of the white, then slide the egg onto the dish it’s destined for. [Chang and Meehan are totally right on about this. The egg holds a mounded shape but it’s jiggly. And, there’s some white for you to pour off.]
How to use the slow-poached eggs:
- Eggs Benedict without much last-minute fuss.
- Fried eggs – use a nonstick skillet with a film of oil. Heat over medium high to smoking, slide the egg in (do the sauce thing to make it easy), then fry for 45 seconds on each side. Sprinkle with Maldon or kosher salt and black pepper. Eat as is. Or, top a salad orbowl of hot rice. Add Maggi Seasoning sauce and black pepper or homemade Sriracha sauce. Heavenly.
- Add the poached egg to an impromptu bowl of rice soup (chao/congee/jook). Use leftover cooked rice 1 part cooked rice: 4 part broth, water, or combination of. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until creamy. Add salt, scallion, and ginger. Ladle it into a bowl, slide the egg into the middle and top with black pepper.
Momofuku’s slow-poached eggs recipe is a keeper. The technique is easy to master and one that I’ll keep in my back pocket. That’s the kind of restaurant cookbook that worth adding to your bookshelf.