Being a farm owner, nothing excites me more than meeting another person who has a passion for slow, “real” food. A few weekends ago I ran into my friend Jeanie Tauss, who introduced me to her husband, Gary. We began talking about events that were happening at 1818 Farms and our conversation became focused on fresh food; eggs in particular. As Gary and I began discussing his experience with many different culinary preparations of eggs, one thing kept running through my mind…”I hope that he will write a guest blog for our website!”
Well, with a dozen fresh 1818 Farms eggs and a little persuasion from me, Gary agreed.
Gary’s first blog was completed last night. His Sous Vide Poached Eggs is the perfect dish for a spring dinner party. Thank you, Gary, for this contributing piece. I hope everyone enjoys…Gary’s blog follows…
A few days ago, I got a dozen eggs from my friends at 1818 Farms. I have been dying to try Sous Vide cooked eggs and decided to make them as a first course at a dinner party last night.
First, a little egg background. Cooking eggs is such an important and basic skill that chefs applying for jobs are often asked to scramble an egg. If you cannot cook an egg properly, you cannot be a great cook. Cooking great eggs make the task that much easier. If you have been buying mass produced eggs, you expect your eggs to all be the same size and either white or brown. In reality, eggs come in many sizes and colors. More importantly, free-range chickens that are not stressed or given feed additives to increase production lay eggs with gorgeous orange yolks. Orange rather than yellow yolks mean that the chickens have eaten a diet high in beta-carotenes (think green veggies). Commercial chickens, kept in cages, just do not get enough in their feed to make up for what they would eat roaming outside.
Armed with one dozen eggs, I began to make my Sous Vide Poached Eggs with Asparagus and Hazelnut vinaigrette. You can make the eggs without a fancy Sous Vide water oven but I like my toy and decided to give it a spin. Sous vide cooking is heating an ingredient in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature for a long time. This allows for even heat transfer. I wanted to use this for eggs since underdone eggs are not very appetizing and overdone eggs are a waste of good eggs. Eggs have a property, which makes cooking them trickier than just throwing a slab of meat on a grill and flipping a few times. The yolk of an egg cooks at 2 degrees Centigrade higher temperature than the whites. That means that if you want whites that are set and a yolk that is runny, you have to overcome this difficulty. Poaching or soft boiling overcomes this by cooking the egg in high heat (simmering water) for a short period. That way the white sets but the heat does not have enough time to penetrate to set the yolk. This works great after a bit of practice and you learn how much time and the appearance of a cooked egg. I wanted to try to cook the yolk just a little bit more than completely runny. The discussions boards I read suggested you could set the yolk to a soft custard consistency and have a soft white by cooking the eggs for 40 to 60 minutes in the water at 146 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is what happened.
I got the Sous Vide going by filling it with water and setting the temperature.
A Sous Vide Supreme is about the size of a big slow cooker.
Next step was preparing the eggs. I wanted to see how the eggs looked as they cooked so I lined a single muffin tin indentation with plastic wrap and made sure there was about 3” overlap on all sides. I cracked an egg and put it in the lined tin.
Next step was to tie up the egg into a little air tight bundle leaving about 10” of string on the end. The string is used to lower and raise the eggs into the water. My photography doesn’t do these eggs justice. The yolks are a deep yellow/orange.
After completing the procedure with the eggs, I put them into the Sous Vide cooker for 55 minutes at 146 degrees.
While the eggs were cooking I blanched the asparagus, toasted the hazelnuts and made a vinegrette.
I got some pretty thick asparagus, used my vegetable peeler to take off the hard outer skin on the bottom 4” of the asparagus and blanched them in simmering, salted water for almost 3 minutes. The asparagus are pliable but not limp. I immediately plunged the asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color.
I used raw hazelnuts, put them in a baggie and crushed them into smaller chunks using the back of my knife blade. A nice heavy chef’s knife works just fine.
All the planning about eggs had made me hungry that morning for bacon and eggs. I mixed the leftover bacon fat with equal parts of champagne wine vinegar and a little salt to make a thick emulsion. You simply put the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake for 2 minutes. Besides being good exercise you get an emulsion that has the consistency of mayonnaise. I didn’t want a runny dressing to mix with the gooey egg yolks so this provided a way to dress the asparagus, get some acid to balance the richness of the egg and something for the hazelnuts to stick to.
First, and most importantly, the eggs were great! We didn’t have any way to do a scientific comparison, but everyone said they could taste the difference between 1818 Farms eggs and supermarket eggs. Clean plates all around.
The whites of the eggs were just set (no clear liquid) and very soft. The yolks were runny but less liquidy than typical eggs. The long cooking time gave the lecithin in the egg time to bind the egg into a more custard like consistency. The bacon/vinegar emulsion was really tangy and a great contrast to the rich eggs. Asparagus was perfectly cooked. The Hazelnuts added a nice crunch. You could substitute any crunchy nut but I wouldn’t use a soft nut like a cashew or pecan because they don’t have the same snap when you bite into them.
The results were very good, but we can do better. We all agreed that one degree more would have made the whites firmer. It still was a great take off on the classic French egg dishes like Oeufs en Meursault. An egg, as a starter course is classic Burgundian cooking. In fact, an omelette with tomato sauce is often served as a Sunday supper. I’d be perfectly content to have this with some good bread and a glass of wine for a light spring Sunday supper.