Poached Eggs

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Quick: name a food that’s more versatile than the egg!  Even if you limit yourself to their uses in a breakfast – scrambled, fried, omeletted (that’s a word, right?  sure…), poached, hard boiled, soft boiled – eggs have myriad options that go well with bread, potatoes, vegetables, ham, bacon, sausage.  They’re awesome.  Thus it’s no wonder that Tolkien made them the chosen food of a hungry dwarf!

“…I like six eggs with my ham, when starting on a journey: fried not poached, and mind you don’t break ‘em.”

After all the others had ordered their breakfasts without so much as a please (which annoyed Bilbo very much), they all got up.  The hobbit had to find room for them all, and filled all his spare-rooms and made beds on chairs and sofas, before he got them all stowed and went to his own little bed very tired and not altogether happy.  One thing he did make his mind up about was not to bother to get up very early and cook everybody else’s wretched breakfast.

There’s little question that the arrival of the dwarves had Bilbo in a right state:  how else would one be so out of sorts as to think that six poached eggs, and ham, comprises a breakfast that can be called “wretched”?

All that said, let’s make some poached eggs!  Eggs can be poached different ways.  Slow-poached eggs are cooked in the shell, for several hours, in a water bath at a very precise temperature; this will be the subject of at least one future post!  But quick-poached eggs are cooked out of the shell in a slightly acidic water bath, and take only a few minutes.  We can be sure that Thorin was ordering the latter by his admonishment “mind you don’t break ‘em” – slow-poached eggs do not generally have issues with breaking, whereas quick-poached eggs take a little care in handling!

Quick-Poached Eggs
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 1

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. (20 g) salt

  1. Fill a large saucepan with at least 2″ (5 cm) of water, bring to a boil, and add the vinegar.
  2. Fill a second, smaller saucepan with around 1″ (2.5 cm) of water, add the salt, and bring to a low simmer.
  3. Prepare a medium bowl of cold water.
  4. Once both the vinegar water is boiling, swirl it with a spoon until it makes a mild whirlpool in the center. Crack one egg into a bowl, then dump the egg out of the bowl into the center of the whirlpool.
  5. Let cook for 2.5 – 3 minutes, until the white is fully cooked but the yolk is still runny.
  6. Remove the egg from the vinegar water with a slotted spoon, and place it in the salt water for 30 seconds.
  7. Remove the egg from the salt water with a slotted spoon and place it in the cold water bowl for around 10 seconds to stop the cooking process, then set on a paper towel to dry. Serve immediately as part of a breakfast – with toast, breakfast meats, hash browns, fried vegetables, or whatever breakfast foodums you like!

If you are cooking multiple eggs at the same time, you can use a large saucepan or stock pot. In this case, do not stir the water, simply try to keep the individual eggs apart from one another. The vinegar makes the white of the egg stay together a little better. Freshly-laid eggs may not require it. The salt water bath adds a little flavor, but it is not a mandatory step.


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