If you’ve been following along, you already know I talk to birds. After my last post, someone suggested that I went a little too Miley Cyrus and overshared. So this time I’m going to slow it down a bit and write about something more relatable.
Though I’m more a dinner all day, every day, kind of girl, I occasionally eat traditional breakfast food. And when I eat eggs, they want to be poached before they make that slippery slide into my belly. I’ll do almost anything for a good Eggs Benedict. Bless you Lemuel Benedict for blackout drinking one night in 1894 and stumbling into the Waldorf Hotel the following morning in search of a hangover cure, ordering buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise. (If I had omitted the last 2 words of the previous sentence, that story would have had a far different ending.)
The poached egg is a fickle mistress. The method and timing must be precise, or she will harden to your affections, or worse, leave you for toast.
I consider myself a capable cook, but admittedly always struggled with the poached egg. I know I’m not alone, because preparing a perfectly cooked, velvety-yolked, poached egg is often a “pressure test” for home cooks appearing on cooking challenge shows. The disappointment and anguish is far too real when an attempt to poach an egg ends in disaster, and a highly agitated Gordon Ramsay yells “PISS OFF!” straight into the home cook’s earhole.
Over the years I have tried several methods of preparation; the gentle pour into a saucepan of simmering water, the swirling of water in accordance to the earth’s magnetic field, and the addition of vinegar to the water—all without consistent or particularly palatable results.
I have also kitchen tested several egg cooking gadgets. An electric egg cooker, sputtered out rubbery atomic shapes with weirdly crisp and bubbled edges. An egg cooking tagine, when microwaved, lost its top in a mini explosion and produced artificially, half hard-cooked yolks. A leaky, floating silicone “poach pod,” that acted like a life raft for egg refugees bobbing their way toward the promise of freedom, but going nowhere. The best result came from my mom’s old school Aristo Craft pan, fitted with stainless steel inserts designed specially for poaching eggs. Still, the pan came in 7 parts, required non-stick spray and produced an unnatural, dense puck shape—a far cry from the delicately subtle result when an an egg is simply simmered in water, inside a covered pan.
When my daughter was in the 3rd grade she met a blue-eyed, beachy-haired wisp of a boy who she nicknamed, “Kitty.” They became best friends. They have the kind of easy friend bond you wait a lifetime to find. How fortunate for them to have found each other so soon. Kitty had since moved 3 hours away, but they remained each other’s go-to for advice and comfort through the fog and uncertainty of their adolescent and teen experience.
Kitty’s birthday and Valentine’s Day were approaching, and he chose to spend the weekend with his bestie. At long last, Kitty had arrived! Once more, our house was filled with rosy laughter, and the grey and lonelys went away.
I’ve never been much for romantic holidays, but solitude has a funny way of making you reconsider the sweetness of tradition. On Valentine’s Day morning, I woke to the smell of cooking bacon, incense, and the sound of Kitty doing his sassiest Nicki Minaj rap.
Not exactly what I expected.
Downstairs, I was happy to find my “Tooty” and her Kitty, completely at home with each other, making breakfast in the kitchen. Kitty had just learned to make poached eggs in culinary class and told me he was making me breakfast. Who was I to argue? This boy is a blessing.
I noticed he had a cast iron skillet on the stove, filled ¾ full with simmering water.
A CAST IRON SKILLET?! What sorcery was this? What kind of off the grid egg poaching technique they were teaching in culinary arts classes these days?
I did not question the magic; rather, I sat quietly and watched.
I watched, and I learned. And I listened to those kids fill the kitchen with laughter and love, and I ate perfect poached eggs, à la Kitty.
Best Valentine’s day ever.