Saturday, June 25, 2005

Experiment! Or: My First Day Of Vacation


Summer vacation is finally here. This whole week was a whirlwind of grading finals, packing the room up until September and final rounds of frantic parent phone calls.

I was so wiped out by the end of the week that I didn't even drink last night. Instead, I crawled into bed at 9pm having been able to manage nothing more taxing with my evening than reading the final TPB in the "Transmetropolitan" series (One More Time.) and occasionally, weakly, shouting at Rachel Ray, who I had been to lazy to switch channels from. I went to bed hoping for dreams in which Spider Jerusalem would zap Rachel Ray with his Bowel Disruptor.

Bright Eyed And Bushy Tailed

As a reward, I awoke at 7:30 this morning with an unusual spring in my step. I've been told that this is what it is like to not have a hangover. I may have to explore this practice in more depth. After I buy more beer.

The Great Egg Experiment

I'm a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. I think A Cook's Tour. is one of the greatest pieces of television ever made (and it's criminal that they only show it at 4am on Wednesday mornings. Thank God for TiVo, DVD burners and Mr. Scoop.).

On one particular episode (San Sebastian), he visited a restaurant called Arzak. He tried an unusual egg dish. Here's what he had to say about it:

"...and then an alarmingly shrewd yet deceptively simple creation I'd never seen nor even heard of before: a fresh duck egg, whole, yolk and white undisturbed, which had been removed carefully from the shell, wrapped in plastic with truffle oil and duck fat, then lightly, delicately poached before being unwrapped and presented, topped with wild-mushroom duxelles and a dusting of dried sausage. It was so good. It hurt to eat it." (A Cook's Tour, HarperCollins, 2001).

This dish sounds impressively rich and over-the-top. And, alas, I currently am without truffle oil and duck fat in the house. Or duck eggs.

But, it was the poaching method that intrigued me. It was at once ingenious and yet, blindingly obvious. I can't believe I've never thought to do this before.

The Method

I love poached eggs. But, the biggest problem I have with them is their tendency to get water-logged when using the traditional method (simmering salted water, with or without the addition of a capful of vinegar). I also don't like poaching insets because I've never gotten them to cook the eggs evenly enough for my tastes; the bottoms will cook while the tops (particularly the whites) stay gooey and runny.

In this method, the saran wrap helps the egg to hold its shape while also protecting it from intrusion by the water in which it poaches.

To begin with, carefully place an 8 inch square of Saran Wrap (or whatever plastic wrap you hate least - it is Satan's creature) in a tea cup or cup size ramekin allowing the sides to hang loosely over the edges of the cup. Spray the wrap with nonstick spray (like Pam). Gently, crack the egg into the wrap. Try not to break the yolk. Then gather up the sides. If you've done it right, the egg won't try to escape. It should look like this:

Secure the egg in the wrap with a twist tie. Then place it in simmering water (should cover the egg to just below the twist tie).

Poach to desired doneness (I think I left mine in for about 5 minutes).

When you remove the egg, unwrap it on some paper towels to absorb any moisture that might have accidently gotten into the plastic (a little got into mine).

Then place them on the plate (I put them on buttered English muffins) and eat!

The one on the right broke a little because I wasn't quite as careful as I should've been. The eggs are delicate coming out of the wrap - be careful!

The texture of the eggs was perfect. The yolks did not overcook. I recommend this technique. I also like the idea that I can add ingredients (like herbs or a flavored oil) to the eggs prior to wrapping them to infuse them with flavor.

Try this. It's a great idea. This must be one of the many reasons why Elena Arzak, who came up with the dish Anthony Bourdain wrote about, makes the big bucks.

Must save money to go to Spain and eat at Arzak.

Must learn Spanish to not make fool of self in Spain.

"Donde esta my pants?"


Dave Morris said...

Or you could just fry the sumbitches.

I am a dunderhead in the kitchen, I'm certain I would screw these up beyond recognition. But they look awesome! Aren't you the cook!

Enjoy your summer...

micawber said...

Very cool. We loved Arzak when we visited a few weeks ago.