The December Daring Cooks' Challenge is called Poached to Perfection. Jenn, from Jenn Cuisine, and Jill, aka Jillouci, challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose an Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.
As most of us know, eggs benedict is a half of an English muffin, topped with Canadian bacon or ham, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. The “daring” of this dish is successfully poaching an egg in water, and making hollandaise, one of the famed mother sauces of France. I was tempted to try one of our favorite eggs benedict variations by local chef Brian Johnston at The Red Door, San Diego. His Sausage Benedict is spicy chicken-jalapeno sausage, on crispy polenta triangles, with poached eggs and cilantro-lime hollandaise.
The second suggested recipe, oeufs en meurette (eggs in meurette sauce), is a classic dish from the region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) in France. It involves poaching an egg in a red wine/stock, which then becomes a reduction sauce. The poached eggs is served on top of fried croûtes, with sauce, bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions.
For the Daring Vegan Cooks, instead of poaching an egg, they were provided with a poached homemade seitan sausage recipe.
Although we were provided with the above three recipes involving poaching, we were permitted to venture out and try something else. I tend to prefer venturing out to find another unique recipe to share with the Daring Community, but I do intend on trying the oeufs en meurette soon. In case you haven't noticed, anything with red wine gets my attention fairly quickly (Chocolate Red Wine Cake, Apple and Red Wine Crostata). Eggs poached in red wine sounds intriguing...
I ventured as far as my cookbook shelves and pulled out one of my favorites - Cindy Pawlcyn's Big Small Plates. I know I could cook from this book for an entire year and be very content. For this month's challenge, I zeroed in on Cindy's Poached Eggs with Sherried Mushrooms and Piquillo Peppers.
We discovered piquillo peppers during one of our summer Concert in the Park culinary challenges. They are a variety of chili traditionally grown in Northern Spain, and the name is Spanish for "little beak." We have found jarred, roasted, piquillo peppers at some of our local gourmet markets. You can substitute roasted red bell peppers if you cannot find piquillo peppers. This dish will become one of our go-tos for brunch or dinner.
Poached Eggs with Sherried Mushrooms and Piquillo Peppers
Slightly adapted from Big Small Plates
4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, or a combination of both
2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
5 piquillo peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
4 half-inch to 3/4-thick slices rustic bread (I used a ciabatta roll)
4 large eggs
6 cups water
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
Course sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter or oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes. Turn heat down to medium and add the onion. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and the mushrooms are starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the sherry and allow to reduce until the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the piquillos and parsley and mix well. (This mixture can be made earlier in the day and then reheated before the eggs are poached).
Toast the bread and reheat the mushrooms/peppers if necessary. To poach the eggs, combine the water, vinegar, and salt in a saute pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain a simmer and poach the eggs 4 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, and tap the spoon on a towel to shake off the water (see poaching tips, below).
Place the toasts on plates and spoon the mushrooms and peppers on the toasts. Top each toast with a poached egg, and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 2-4, depending on serving size.
Poaching to Perfection Tips:
• Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible. Farm-fresh eggs will make for the best poached eggs. Old eggs will have a harder time with the whites spreading out all over the place when you place the egg in the water.
• Adding a bit of vinegar or acidic agent to your water will help stabilize the eggs and cook the whites faster, and keeping your water just below boiling point (about 190F) will help keep the fragile eggs from all the boiling bubble action rupturing the eggs. Also make sure to salt your poaching water well.
• The other main key to success is to crack your egg into a small bowl first, taking care not to break the yolk. Then it becomes easy to gently slide the entire egg into the water for the poaching process. Some people will also suggest swirling the poaching liquid into a bit of a vortex before sliding the egg in, in order to help keep the egg whites together. I prefer to have the water calm. I also like covering the pan with a glass lid to help steam the top of the yolk that is not submerged in water.
• A poached egg is done when the whites are fully cooked and the yolk has just started to solidify but is still runny when you cut it open – usually three minutes. It’s ok to go a little longer though depending on your desired firmness.
• You can poach eggs ahead of time (about a day). Just immerse them in ice water after poaching, and then keep them in a bowl of water in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use them, place them in hot (not boiling) water until they are warmed through.
Also from Big Small Plates:
Chiles en Nogada
Mini Buffalo Burgers with Roasted Chile Relish and Pablo's Pickled Onions