It's said that to get hired in a kitchen, budding chefs are often put to the "egg test." If the cook can perfectly prepare eggs on request, they're in.
So to wrap up the weekly series in which I learned to burn rice, make crepes with leftovers and get wasted on Jell-o, I thought it only fitting that I whip up some of the more traditional, but not always easy, varieties of cooked eggs.
Boiling: Apparently, "hard-boiled" is a misnomer. You don't want to actually boil eggs, or they'll end up with that disgusting greenish haze around the yolk. Pity I didn't know that for the past twenty-odd Easters. (But seriously, who actually eats those colored eggs anyway?)
Instead you'll "coddle" them, which isn't as creepy as it sounds.
1. Place room temperature eggs in a single layer at the bottom of your pot.
2. Fill with cool water to just cover the eggs. Don't salt it, even if you're tempted to make the water boil faster, because it throws off the cooking time.
3. Dump out your salted water and fill again.
4. Bring water to a rolling boil and remove pot from heat.
5. Cover and leave alone for 17-20 minutes depending on the size of the egg (smaller = less time).
6. After the time is up, remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place them in cold water for a few minutes until slightly cooled. This will stop the cooking process and help you peel the shells (older eggs will also peel more easily).
Tip: If you want soft-boiled eggs, remove from heat after 5 minutes, dip in cool water and lop off the tops with a sharp knife or kitchen shears -- or egg scissors, if you've got a fancy-pants kitchen.
Poached: Poached eggs are among the most difficult to make. While they take little time to cook, it's amazing how difficult it is to corral egg whites in a pot of water. But there are a few tricks that will save the day if you're ever asked to poach an egg.
1. Bring a small pot of water to just under boiling. You should see small bubbles at the bottom of the pot.
2. Crack open an egg and place it gently into a small dessert bowl.
3. Hold the bowl just over the water and delicately tip the egg into the pot. If you're too rough, the yolk will burst and you'll have to start over again.
4. Desperately try to move the swirling whites into place near the yolk. If the whites separate, the yolk's on you.
Or, if you're the Virgin, get smart and prepare the pot of water in advance with a small pancake/egg mold. This will give you a target to crack the egg over, and cause the egg to be contained inside the metal ring. Take that, chef test!
5. Cook the egg for about 5 minutes, until the whites are firm but the yolk is still bright yellow-orange and transparent.
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6. Carefully remove the egg mold and then scoop the egg out with a slotted spoon. Voila! Perfectly poached eggs.
The result: While the egg-cellent experiment did suffer from one bad batch of boiled water, I still managed to serve up tasty boiled and soft-boiled eggs in less than a half-hour. Poached eggs are notoriously difficult to make, but the addition of a cheap 50-cent egg mold I had laying around made for a quick-and-easy process that churned out a perfect poached egg in minutes.
After seven months of chopping and grinding and burning, Cooking Virgin is clearly not a virgin anymore.