The Gleeful Gourmand: Confessional Breakfast

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Confessional Breakfast

Once again we've come to the time in our program where I confess something about the things I do, or in this case, don't do in the kitchen. I often remark to my husband that I feel like a fraud as a food writer because it feels like there's so many things I haven't even attempted at the helm of my own stove. I've long held that in order to really write effectively about food, you have to truly love food and know food. On one hand, I do feel like I know what I'm talking about, but on the other I'm willing to admit that there's a lot of basic things that have escaped my attention so far, like:

1) Never trussing a chicken and roasting it. That's right, I've never roasted a chicken, one of the most basic things any home cook should know how to do. My husband, on the other hand, knows how to truss. And he learned it from Men's Journal. Head scratching, isn't it? I have no excuse.

2) Never making my own pie crust. I've admitted it on here before, and I'll admit it again, I'm scared to even try. I've worked with doughs of all types, in many situations, and yet I can't seem to move ahead with this one. And I love making pies. But every time I start feeling badly about myself in this category, I inevitably read a reputable food source that says, "It's okay to use the refrigerated pie dough!" And I put it off once again, "See? You can't be all that bad, they said it was okay!"

3) Never poaching eggs. I lacked the know-how and also, I thought, the equipment. I love eggs in almost all forms, so you would have thought by now I would have gotten around to it. But, sadly, no.

So as New Year's Day dawned gloomy and grey, and the effects from the party the night before were wearing off, I set out to make my first food act of 2013 to poach some eggs. Actually, my first official food act of 2013 was putting Eggo Waffles in the toaster for my kids, but that's neither here nor there.

One of my most favorite breakfast foods has always been Eggs Benedict. To say I love this dish is an understatement. It's more like a love affair. The saltiness of the bacon. The crispness from the English Muffin. The thick, tangy, luscious hollandaise draping seductively over those perfectly poached creamy eggs.

I was laid up for a couple of days with a nasty cold after the holidays, and I watched The Pioneer Woman make her version of Classic Eggs Benny. She made it look so very easy. Hollandaise in a blender! Sold. Poaching eggs like it was as simple as flipping your hair! I was convinced. It was time for me to check another fraudulent box off my list. I was going to make my favorite dish, and by God, I was going to poach me some eggs.
There's an egg in there, but it aint pretty.

I tried it The Pioneer Woman's way first, from what I remembered watching. Her recipe on the Food Network's website left a lot to be desired on the hows and whys of poaching, but I surmised that this was because most home cooks already knew how to poach eggs. I simmered a pan of water, added a dash of White Distilled Vinegar (it helps coagulate the whites of the egg) and I created a vortex of swirling water with my spoon into which I dropped an already cracked egg from a bowl. Disaster. The whites went everywhere, spinning out of control, and the boiling water reached a feverish pitch, and I started sweating. After giving it the recommended 2 1/2 minutes, I removed it with a slotted spoon and put it on a plate. Needless to say, it did not resemble a poached egg. Actually, come to think of it, it looked like a gross version of an over-easy egg.

But I was not to be daunted. I quickly looked up how to poach and egg, and realized my critical mistake: I needed to crack the egg into a very small bowl like a ramekin, so that the egg would stay together better when I went to slip it gently into the water. I tried again, and this time it worked like a charm. The swirling vortex really did wonders to make the whites fold in on themselves, covering the yolk gently with their movement. I also assisted the motion gently with my spoon.

Four eggs and one enormous mess later, I had my Eggs Benedict assembled, and I was feeling pretty darned good about myself. The Hollandaise in the blender was fine, but was not as good as restaurant quality. Next time I'm going to make it from scratch the old-fashioned way, whisking until my arm falls off. I was also disappointed in the Canadian Bacon, which was kind of rubbery and lacking in flavor. Next time, I'm going to get fresh country ham, instead. But overall, it tasted really good, and being able to say that I could now poach an egg - without cups or gadgets felt really good.
My first attempt at Eggs Benedict.

Here is the Pioneer Woman's recipe for Eggs Benedict, courtesy of the Food Network: Eggs Benedict.
Is there anything you're determined to make for the first time in 2013?


Ellen said...

Perfect timing - we are having a dish involving poached eggs for dinner tonight and I am going to try (OK, I am going to have Josh try) the whirlpool trick.

Here is the recipe if you're interested. It's yummy!

Jenna said...

Ellen I liked the vortex approach because it kind of does the work for you. Wait until the water is simmering and then whirl the water. Can't wait to check out your recipe. Now that I know how to do it I want to try more! Let me know how it goes.

Shauna said...

Strangely, I just read two blog posts in a row regarding poached eggs. My cooking goals for 2013 are to use How to Cook Everything a heck of a lot more, and to try new recipes from my Cooking Light subscription I just started. I've had a few of their cookbooks for years that I use quite a bit.

And if you can poach an egg you can make a pie crust! The hardest part is getting it off the surface and into the pan, but there are all kinds of little helpful tools for that. I still can't pinch the edges right, my mom does that part, so I guess that's another goal for this year. :-)

Jenna said...

Shauna, you are my pie crust guru. When I finally do it, I'm going to dedicate an entire post just to you. :)

Elizabeth said...

I can't wait to come back to your house and have some eggs benedict!

I have made a pie crust, so if I can, YOU can!

Jenna said...

Next time you're here, Liz, it's on!

I know it's ridiculous about pie crusts. It's just the notion that if you do one thing incorrectly, the whole thing falls apart. That's why I think I have a mental block on it. There's no wiggle room.

Shauna said...

Well, if you actually saw me make one you might change your mind about that! But really, I was terrified of them for a long time until my sisters made me do it.

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