Is it really the middle of December already? I can't even believe it. But the calendar doesn't lie and time keeps on rolling, so here we are - time to reveal the December Daring Cooks' Challenge, which was awesomely hosted by Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill, one of our non-blogging members.
Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from from Cooking with Wine by Anne Aillan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.
I will admit that when I first read this challenge, I was not 100% excited. Not because it didn't sound good - it sounded great! I have never poached an egg before, have never tasted Eggs Benedict before, and found it really interesting that the challenge was focused on a technique rather than a specific recipe. So what was my issue? Well, poached eggs aren't exactly on the go-to diet during pregnancy. In fact, most doctors and nutritionists agree that, when pregnant, one should only consume eggs that are fully cooked through. And any chef you speak with will agree that a perfectly poached egg has a runny yolk. What is a pregnant woman to do?
Well, first I considered all of my other poaching alternatives - as poaching is a technique for cooking, it is not at all limited to eggs. One can poach meat, fish, fruits, vegetables - the possibilities are limitless. I found some really great recipes for poaching fruit, and even went and bought pears, full well intending to poach those in a sweet vanilla syrup as a dessert dish. It sounded delicious... and yet... something was holding me back. I really wanted to poach an egg, as that was the original intention of the challenge.
So I finally decided that I would go with eggs, but I would skip the Eggs Benedict until I could eat it properly - runny yolks and all. After much searching, I happened across a delicious looking recipe for eggs poached in tomato sauce. Then, after a bit more searching, I came across another variation of that recipe on a different site. After seeing both versions, I was convinced that this was the dish for me, just with what experts might consider slightly over-poached eggs in place of the perfectly runny ones.
The first step in each recipe was to prepare a tomato sauce. I opted to use canned crushed tomatoes as my base, and to season them up to my family's tastes. To start with, I sauteed an onion. There is nothing better than starting a recipe with sauteeing an onion - makes the whole house smell so good and sets a great tone for whatever you are making. Once the onion was ready, I poured in the crushed tomatoes and started seasoning my sauce as it cooked. A little bit of garlic powder (I know, I was disappointed with myself for not having fresh garlic, too - it won't happen again...), some oregano, a pinch of salt, some fresh ground pepper, and a dash of sugar for good measure. Seasoned and stirred, I let the sauce simmer for about 40 minutes, and was then ready to get to the main event.
Using the back of my spoon, I tried to make little wells in my sauce, but they didn't really hold all that well... So I knew I had to move quickly. And the trickiest part, in case you were curious, was figuring out how to photograph this process as I went. Because once I had my almost imperceptible well in the sauce, it was time to crack an egg into said well. A little tricky to do, very difficult to photograph... or at least photograph well... Oh well. I opted to make three eggs, even though the pan and amount of sauce could have handled four. Once all three eggs were cracked into the very-lowly-simmering sauce, I put the lid on the pan to keep the moisture in and then just waited. I wasn't sure quite how long it would take to first poach and then over-poach the eggs, but it was really interesting to watch the eggs cook in the sauce (the picture was taken through the clear lid of the pan - sorry it's a little cloudy). I tested the eggs for done-ness by carefully poking at the tops of the yolks to see how much they jiggled, and when it seemed that they were pretty solidly cooked, I knew it was time to plate them up.
To serve these, I toasted up nice, thick slices of homemade bread, melted a slice of mozzarella cheese onto each slice, then topped the cheese with an egg and a nice dollop of the sauce. With steamed, chopped spinach on the side, dinner was ready.
These were so delicious. So good, in fact, that even little miss, who claimed that night to not like eggs or red sauce (despite usually loving red sauce... you never know with four-year-olds...) allowed me to share some with her, and proclaimed it "Yum!!" So good, in fact, that I regretted, after the first bite, not making all four eggs that could have fit in the pan. So good, in fact, that after eating my serving, I snagged the one extra egg (I had one, daddy had one, little miss had leftovers from the night before after informing me of her dislike of eggs and red sauce, as mentioned above...) and served it up over a bed of spinach, rather than on the toast, and with a sprinkling of parmesan on top.
Jenn and Jill, thank you so much for this challenge. I very much look forward to trying the poached egg recipes that you shared with us for this challenge, and to trying my hand at poaching all kinds of different foods, from meats to fruits and everything in between. This was a great challenge, and I think that so many of us learned so much!
To see the delicious dishes poached by the other Daring Cooks, check them out here.
4 days ago