March 7, 2011

A Lesson in Poached Eggs

I live by the seat of my pants. My well-worn, stretch pants that I wear at least five of the seven days in a week.

Since I work in San Francisco, and mostly from the comfort of my home, the idea of “getting dressed” continues to slowly fade from my social lexicon. I had a few years of working a real, office-casual kind of job where I put together sassy power suits and tailored pants with some flash-of-personality heels, confidently strutting downtown with the rest of the urban jungle thinking, “look how professional I am.”

But comfort and simplicity have always won out in my life. I chose my college based on the campus where girls wore sweats, not pearls. And even today, if I’ve brushed my hair and teeth, well then you might as well guess that I’m getting ready for some sort of formal affair.

But there is a time and a place for getting gussied up and for that reason, I keep a few figure-fitting dresses amongst my loose t-shirts. Because, honestly, what girl doesn’t like feeling dolled up? What boys don’t mind feeling debonaire? And what kind of Brussel Sprouts don’t mind looking sexy? Really sexy.

These beautiful leaves were just calling for some kind of culinary makeover and while I could have doused them in balsamic vinegar and pepper or caped them in a thick mustard cream sauce, I took a cue from Coco Chanel, and kept the dressing simple. I limited the accessories and made my food fashion statement with a simple, slightly oversized, poached egg hat.

Of course, I had some help. The wonderful Ms. Alice Waters and her “The Art of Simple Food” held my hand through the poaching process. Something I had viewed with trepidation for years – wasn’t this supposed to be one of the hardest things to cook? Well, it wasn’t. I nailed it on my first try. And again on my second. Scouts honor. There is no room for modesty with a masterpiece like this.

The trick lies in a heavy bottomed pot (so that heat disperses evenly), a little dash of vinegar in the simmering water, a vortex (which only requires the stirring of your spoon, not a magic wand), and cracking your egg in a separate bowl before sliding into the pot.

The result is a perfectly runny poached egg and happy smiles. Which is the best accessory of all. Right?

Chow on.


  • 1 egg per person
  • Dash of good-tasting white vinegar


1. Fill a tall, heavy-bottomed pot half-way with water and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Could I have more hyphens in that sentence?

2. Prep by cracking an egg in a separate bowl and filling another boil with warm water. If you are making several poached eggs for guests, you can keep the finished eggs in the warm water bath while you make the rest.

3. Once the water has started to boil, lower the heat so that little bubbles constantly crack on the surface, but the boil is gentle. Then, add a dash of the vinegar (about 1/4 teaspoon if you want to measure) and stir. Slide the egg into the water and start your vortex by gently stirring clockwise, careful not to touch the egg at all. The vortex helps keep the egg white wrapped around the yolk and it also keeps the egg from settling and sticking to the bottom of the pot.

4. If your egg came straight from the refrigerator, it should take 2-3 minutes to cook. Remove with a slotted spoon and test for doneness by gently pressing on the yolk part. If slightly springy but soft to the touch, it is ready to go. Place into the bowl of warm water and repeat with the rest of the eggs.

5. Serve over creamy polenta, braised Brussels sprouts, even coffee rubbed steak. Enjoy.

Emily March 7, 2011 at 9:06 am

You crack me up and I relate a little too closely. Sometimes after working from home and wearing sweats four days in a row it’s hard to even pull on a pair of jeans. I’ve always been way too intimidated to try poaching an egg – but after reading this post, I think it can be done! And looks fantastic over Brussels sprouts!

lizthechef March 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

You will, of course, completely understand how, on more than one occasion, I have dashed off to the store for a missing ingredient, only to discover I completed the errand wearing my pink Ugg slippers! Thanks for making me want to try (again) to make a perfect poached egg…

thedailydish March 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Hah – love the comment above. We went to Macy’s last week and my older daughter announced (horrified) as we exited the car, “MOM! I forgot to put on shoes!!” She too was wearing her Ugg slippers. Darn things are too comfy for words.

Love this post SG! Your poached egg is a thing a beauty and as for the sprouts, I adore every type of cabbage, including the little guys. I’ll have to try this out! 🙂

Karen Harris March 8, 2011 at 7:39 am

Great post! I love a silken poached egg over tender baby greens lightly dressed in a tart vinaigrette. This is definitely the pink Ugg slipper of food for me. Your version is beautiful.

sodium girl March 8, 2011 at 8:14 am

YOU guys crack me up. I love how this went from eggs, to fashion, to pink ugg boots. I’m pretty sure we scared off all the guys with this one!

Let me know how the poaching goes!

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