There is something about a poached egg on top of a dish that heightens its elegance and comfort in a way little else can.
No one in my house made poached eggs when I was growing up. It’s always interesting to me to see what food opinions are formed differently from mine based on foods that someone else’s mother loved or hated. I didn’t have asparagus for a long time because my mother didn’t like it. When she grew up it came from a can and was slimy and bitter. But I love fresh asparagus, steamed with a little snap to it – it’s in the top 10, maybe even the top 5 true tastes of spring. I wonder if my kids will like it, too, or if the love for asparagus in my family begins and dies with me. Fascinating.
On the other hand, I could never stomach raw yolk on my plate. My gut would churn at the sight of the bright yellow swirls left on my father’s breakfast plate, dappled with toast crumbs and pepper. Scrambled was the only way I would eat an egg; even the gray coated yolk of a hard boiled egg triggered my gag reflex. It wasn’t until I was much older, maybe my early 20’s?, that I tried Eggs Benedict for the first time and quickly got over my revulsion. A few years later, my roommate Gillian returned from a trip to a friend’s grandmother’s house, raving about the poached eggs she was served, and we tried to recreate them in our Allston kitchen. It wasn’t bad, but I’ve since left the poaching to the experts.
Twice in March I’ve had dishes where a simple but perfect egg on top has changed the food entirely. One Saturday a few weeks ago after exhausting ourselves on belly laughs at a Why Not Boston taping, we decided to refuel at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square. While we were there we had a surprise serving of crispy pig’s head cake. If you’ve ever been to a pig roast, you know that some of the most delicious meat to be had on a pig is from the head. It’s only going to get more delicious if you mash that meat with spice and fry it up into a light, crispy cake. The poached egg that came on top of this dish was so perfectly delicate that it was almost a shame to break it open. But doing so pulled together the crunch and the softness of the dish into a beautiful blend that should have been savored and that we practically inhaled. It would have been good without the egg. But with the egg it was perfect. And I know I’ve already used that word in this paragraph but it’s appropriate in both places so there.
Last night was the one year anniversary of the day that NJS proposed. It snuck up on us, and we hadn’t really talked about doing anything special, but when evening events conspired at the last minute to keep us apart it was disappointing. Instead of being with him, I headed to one of my favorite neighborhood spots that isn’t in my neighborhood but should be (remind me later to do a post about those – I have a few scattered across the Boston area) Green Street. Sitting alone at the bar for dinner, I wanted to choose a salad and oysters or salmon or any of the other better-for-my-scale choices and instead chose what sounded the most comforting: housemade ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms and a poached egg. It made me think about the word “creamy” and how something without cream can taste and feel more creamy than something containing it. I love the way homemade pasta melts away in your mouth, and adding the egg pulled the mushrooms into the creaminess without losing their texture. It felt so decadent to have so much comfort in my meal.
Any tips on how to best prepare a poached egg at home? What are some of your favorite ways to use poached eggs?