How To: Make Poached Egg

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Have I ever confessed to you about my love for egg dishes in all shapes and forms?

I’ve always dreamed of hosting a brunch party, serving up a delectable spread of breakfast baked goods, homemade jams and preserves, and hot egg dishes like fluffy omelets and scrambled eggs. That plan has not yet materialized because of one pretty major problem: I’m not good at cooking eggs. Which explains why there is not a single egg dish on here.

Although I’m not good at making fancy egg dishes, I am proud to say that I can make a poached egg without fail, every time. The only hitch thus far has been that it took me about ten tries to figure out how to cook it properly and consistently. Those trial runs, my friend, are totally worth it because I nailed it on the eleventh try. And the twelfth. And every single time since then! The white is cooked just enough so that the center is warm and still runny when you poke your fork into it as you eat. I love to put a poached egg on anything and everything: potato hash, pasta, roasted asparagus, or simply a piece of toast.

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I think it goes without saying that- in my opinion- this is the easiest egg dish to make. Yes, you read my mind.

Okay, let’s begin, shall we?

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Fill a pot with water until it comes up to about three-quarter of the way. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar (it helps the egg white coagulate). Let it come to a full boil.

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Crack an egg into a small bowl as you wait for the water to boil. I like to use jumbo-sized eggs because of the egg white to yolk ratio. And the more egg whites, the lower likelihood that your poached egg will break when it is being transferred from the pot, to the plate, and to your mouth. In that order.

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Once it does, lower the heat to a bare simmer until all of the bubbles subside and gently pour the egg into the water. You want to do it slowly so that the egg white gathers around the yolk as it is submerged in the water. At this point, the egg should be floating in the water. If it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, your pan is either too shallow for poaching eggs, or you need to fill the pot with more water, or both (unfortunately).

Set the timer for four minutes and wait patiently. Patience is the key here. Don’t poke or prod it! Just wait and let it do its thing.

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When the time is up, remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel to soak up the excess moisture. Trim the loose bits and pieces of egg white (totally optional, I do it just because of my crazy perfectionist tendencies), transfer it to the serving plate, and top it with some salt and pepper. Or hollandaise sauce if you’re in the mood for Eggs Benedict.

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Finally, poke into your perfectly poached egg with a fork and admire the runny yolk as it seeps into the bread and onto your plate. And then take out your phone to Instagram it. Just joking. Go ahead, dig in, and enjoy!

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*Some instructions will tell you to heat the water until it reaches a simmer, but since “simmer” covers a wide range of temperature, the best way for me to gauge whether it is simmering is to bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down so that it is no longer boiling.

*I don’t use the whirlpool method because I’m a bit accident-prone, especially when I’m told to stir hot water vigorously into a fury.

*In case you want to make it for a group of people, you can keep a bowl of hot (not boiling) water nearby to keep the poached eggs in until you’re ready to serve.

*The egg I used here was directly from the refrigerator, so it took four minutes of cooking. If you’re poaching an egg that is at room temperature, it should take you less than four minutes. Also, if you’re using a smaller egg, your cooking time should be shortened as well.

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Shanghai Smashed Cucumber Salad

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One quick announcement: the winner of the Des Moines Bacon Company giveaway is Lori of Lori’s Culinary Creation. Congrats to Lori and thanks to everyone who entered. I’ve another giveaway planned for you, so stay tuned!

When I visited Shanghai three years ago, every dinner I had on my trip started with cold appetizers, like smoked fish, drunken chicken, and smashed cucumber salad, which was my favorite. I was quite obsessed with the dish and had been wanting to recreate the dish at home, except that I couldn’t find that type of cucumber back in the States. Recently, I’ve discovered that Persian cucumbers are very similar to what I had in Shanghai. In terms of appearance, they are slender, deep green, and with a bumpy skin. They are also sweet, seedless, very crispy, and not as bitter as say, kirby or English cucumbers- all characteristics that make them perfect for this salad.

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This recipe is my rendition of the traditional dish. I’m using fish sauce and chicken bouillon powder here, which I find blend nicely into the vinaigrette. Soy sauce can be too pungent and overpowering sometimes.

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Smashing the cucumber with the back of a knife bruises and breaks it down into smaller pieces, which allow the cucumber pieces to soak up the flavors of the vinaigrette. The cucumbers are then marinated and chilled until serving, so that they take on a sweet, tangy, and refreshing taste.

I’m going to warn you in advance- this dish is pretty addictive! My sister Kelly (by the way, she writes a lifestyle blog here, so you should definitely check it out!), who hated cucumber all her life, took a bite and was forever changed. Who knows, maybe it will change your taste buds too.

Shanghai Smashed Cucumber Salad
(serves 4)

5 seedless Persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsps Chinese Jinjiang vinegar
¾ tbsp sugar
2 tbsps fish sauce
½ tsp chili garlic sauce
¼ tsp dark sesame oil
¼ tsp chicken bouillon powder

On a cutting board, smash cucumbers with flat side of knife and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces. In a bowl, whisk together garlic, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, and chicken bouillon powder. Add the cucumber pieces and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

*If you can’t find Persian cucumbers, you can use other types of cucumber and follow the recipe as is with this additional step: in a colander, toss cucumber pieces with about a tablespoon of salt and set it over the sink until some of the liquid is released from the cucumbers. Rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towel. This step removes the bitter juices and excess moisture so that the vinaigrette does not get watered down when the cucumbers are being marinated.

*Smash the cucumber to break it down slightly but not so much that it turns into mush.


Bacon Fat, Cheddar, and Chive Biscuits

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Remember how I made candied bacon earlier this week?  Well, not only do I love cooked bacon strips, I also love the leftover bacon grease!  While discussing the versatility of cooking with bacon grease, my friend Ray mentioned how his father cooked up a couple of pounds of bacon during the holidays, but threw the bacon grease away (ouch!)  I made him promise to save them for me in the future, so now we’re back on friendly terms.  Bacon fat is actually wonderful to have around.  It infuses whatever you’re cooking with a subtle smokiness and elevates the dish with some richness, whether it is roasted potatoes, sautéed vegetables, or how about… biscuits?

I have a biscuit recipe that produces consistent results every time: flaky on the outside, light and tender on the inside.  But, as you well know, I can’t leave well enough alone.  I decided to substitute the butter with cold, hardened bacon fat, and mixed in some cheddar cheese and chives to up the tasty quotient.  They came out of the oven so beautifully!  Bacon makes just about everything taste better, as far as I’m concerned.

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If dieting is one of your new year’s resolutions, go ahead and make these immediately before the diet starts (next week, right?)  In the meantime, devour with unapologetic greed.  And enter the giveaway to win a free box of bacon from Des Moines Bacon Company if you haven’t already done so!  (deadline is January 19 at 11:59PM EST)

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Bacon Fat, Cheddar, and Chive Biscuits
(makes 14 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup bacon fat, cold, cut into small cubes
1½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
2/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar.  Work bacon fat into the dry ingredients with your fingers until mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Stir in 1 ¼ cup of cheese and chives.  Add milk, and stir with a fork just until dough comes together.  Do not overmix.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently for 10 to 12 times.

Pat dough into a circle about ½ inch thick.  Cut out biscuits using a floured 2-inch round cutter.  Press down on the dough and do not twist with the cutter.  Transfer biscuits to the prepared baking sheets, top biscuits with reserved cheese, and bake until brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Serve hot.

* I like to save the drippings in a microwaveable container or glass jar for future uses.  I let the fat cool to room temperature, pour it through a sieve (lined with a coffee filter to get rid of the brown bits), and then store the fat in the freezer.  Whenever I need to use it, I just heat it in the microwave for a bit and melt it until it becomes liquid.

*If you don’t have enough bacon fat, just use butter until you have a total of half cup of fat.

*By the way, the bacon fat I used in this recipe is rendered from Des Moines Bacon Company’s hardwood smoked uncured bacon