How I came to terms with poached eggs
I had a hard time figuring out the topic for this week’s column because, shockingly, nothing went wrong this week in my culinary life. This week it became fall in Boston, without much of a warning. Now it’s dark by the time I get home from the gym, I can see my breath in the morning, and I can cook in my apartment without turning it into a human-sized oven. Now that it’s cool, I used this week to bring back one of my winter favorites—soup.
For someone like me who is often lazy and often hungry, soup is the perfect winter meal. The initial batch can be time-consuming, but for the rest of the week, dinner is only a microwave trip away. The newest entry into my soup repertoire is a White Bean puree with a poached egg on top. I got this recipe from the blog Not Eating Out in New York, a food blog by a woman named Cathy who decided to forego eating out for two years and learned about cooking. She’s since become very advanced, and many of her recipes use scary-looking ingredients that I’ve never heard of.
Cathy is also a big supporter of eating local, so she shops in New York markets for all of her dishes and uses fruits and vegetables that change with the seasons. Great for the environment, not so great for someone like me who is usually unwilling to trek to the market when I have a Shaw’s practically across the street. I tend to get many of my recipes from Kraftfoods.com, which has a handy tool where you can select some ingredients that you have on hand, and it will find recipes using those ingredients and other things you’re likely to have in your fridge or pantry, not some obscure leafy legume, or something. I try to buy things I know I can use in multiple recipes (unlike the poor red pepper I have sitting in my crisper waiting for me to get brave enough to make homemade roasted red pepper hummus before it goes bad).
As a result, Cathy’s recipes are often too ambitious for my humble skills, but this White Bean soup used simple ingredients: any kind of white bean, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and an egg. Eat it with a few Ritz crackers for a little more salt and a bit of butter taste, and you have a filling winter soup. Before making this recipe, you could not have forced me to eat a poached egg. I have an 8-year-old cousin who calls eggs over easy “juicy eggs,” and that disgusting description is exactly how I felt about liquid egg yolk. As in, there is no way it could be properly cooked, and why would I want to eat egg juice when I could have fine, fluffy scrambled eggs? But the egg in the picture on the blog looked as good as sunshine, and I was willing to try.
One thing her recipe neglects to say is exactly what to do with the beans beforehand. I was glad I thought to read the package, because the beans need to be rinsed (which I never would have thought about), then soaked overnight. When I rinsed the beans in a colander, I pulled out a rock and was never so grateful to have read directions (especially because I have yet to find a dentist in Boston). The package is very unclear about how long you’re supposed to cook the beans after having soaked them overnight. Two and a half hours seemed excessive after being in water for 12 hours. I decided to wing it and tasted a bean every ten minutes or so, forgetting that the water was boiling and burning my tongue each time in my eagerness. They were ready in half an hour.
While soaking the beans, you sauté a clove or two of fresh garlic, and then all goes into the blender. I have only made this recipe 3 or 4 times, so I don’t have my pan usage down to a science yet (for example, when I’m done cooking my tortilla soup, I know how to time it so that the kitchen is clean and all that’s left is the one pan the soup is simmering in).
You need a separate pan to sauté the garlic, and another to poach the egg, and several others for the process of pureeing the beans in the blender (if you are poor like me and don’t have a food processor). I cook the entire bag of beans, so they all won’t fit in the blender and I have to do this back and forth dance and manage to dirty at least 4 pots. This time, I was making the soup and my roommate came home, looked at the mess of dishes, and thought I was making something really fancy. Another plus to soup—it makes you look really busy. However, I messed up the water-to-bean ratio and the soup was much chunkier than a puree should be. My roommate dipped her spoon in the pan to try it despite my warning about the texture. And in a perfect Goldilocks ending, she said it was just right.
After poaching the egg and cracking it on top of the soup, I decided that eggs are magical—the yellow yolk makes the soup a little creamier and covers any garlic/water/bean imbalances. And now, for the rest of the week while temperatures continue to drop, I’m just a 4-minute poached egg away from dinner.
Postscript: I’m a little worried that egg yolks are going to be my gateway drug to slimier foods…