Poaching is the gentle simmering of eggs which are completely submerged in water containing salt, vinegar or both. Eggs can also be poached in a special pan, in which case they are cooked by steam and acquire a moulded shape.
Eggs en cocotte are prepared by steaming under a lid with butter and seasoning in an earthenware dish specially designed for single eggs known as a cocotte.
(1) Bring the pan of water to the boil and gently simmer. Add salt or vinegar as preferred using approximately 1 part vinegar to 20 parts water.
(2) Add the eggs from their shells one at a time, allowing a second for each to begin to set before adding the next.
(3) Whilst cooking, the egg white should fold over and surround the yolk. This action may be helped by the use of a perforated spoon, but care must be taken not to pierce the yolk.
(4) When the egg white appears to have solidified and is firm but not hard, remove from the water for testing if cooked to perfection (see Note below).
(5) If undercooked gently replace in the poaching liquid. If cooked to the required degree, transfer the egg to a cloth, held in one hand, which has been folded several times to prevent the possibility of scalding should the eggs not be completely drained of hot water.
(6) When all water has been drained transfer it back onto the spoon and place on the prepared base in the dish or plate in which it will be served.
(1) Use a shallow sided pan of sufficient size to allow ample room for the eggs to be manipulated whilst cooking.
(2) If poaching is correctly carried out in batches the water may be used several times.
(3) The choice whether to add salt or vinegar to the water before the eggs are poached is a personal one. Vinegar being an acid lowers the temperature at which the egg protein will set. The lower the temperature a protein is set at, the softer is the product, therefore if eggs are poached in water and vinegar the final poached egg is a softer coagulum. On the other hand, salt may cause the white of the egg to fray during poaching.
(4) Poached eggs when served hot are generally presented on a base which may consist of a variety of warmed vegetables, toast, muffins or pastry tartlets with a filling.
(5) To test if cooked remove the egg from the water using a perforated spoon. The white of the egg should appear set and the yolk should be soft. Slight pressure may be applied to the yolk with a finger in order to test its firmness.
(6) If the poached eggs are to be retained, do not drain them on a cloth but place them directly in a basin of cold water. Do not attempt to store too many eggs in one receptacle.
(7) If using a special poached-egg pan use the following Method.
Method using a poached-egg pan
(1) Lightly butter the mould, season with salt and pepper and break the egg into the mould. (Alternatively lightly season the mould, place in it a knob of butter and heat gently until melted. Add the egg.)
(2) Cover with the lid and cook until the egg white has set and the egg yolk is still soft.
(3) Remove from the mould and serve.
(1) Eggs cooked in this way are not suitable for reheating but can be served with the same garnishes and sauces or used to make the same extensions detailed in 5.2 just as poached eggs made in water.
(2) The egg cannot always be successfully turned out of the mould if undercooked.