(james benedict brown) on the road

Poaching

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 23 August, 2008

Last week, while travelling at speeds of almost 200km/h, I ate freshly prepared Eggs Benedict and drank a quite reasonable Merlot. Some unexpected news had reached me during a five hour train journey (via the complimentary wireless internet provided on said train), so I decided to celebrate with a modest lunch in the restaurant car. The restaurant on National Express East Coast services is in fact half of a first class carriage beyond the standard class buffet counter, so for penny pinching apex travellers like myself, a meal on the train is actually a pretty cheap upgrade to first class for as long as you are eating. The Eggs Benedict didn’t last that long, although the Merlot and a coffee meant I spent the time it takes to get from York to Peteborough in a much more comfortable seat than that which I had occupied from Glasgow at the other end of the train.

I don’t think I’d eaten Eggs Benedict until a few years ago when I tried the dish during a torrential summer downpour in a Montréal bistro. Something I miss a great deal from living in Canada (and travelling in America) is the ease and affordability of eating out for breakfast. The consumate skill required in preparing Eggs Benedict makes it a justifiable purchase in a breakfast joint, especially since I rarely have the motor skills first thing in the morning to poach eggs.

These eggs were amazing, served beneath a creamy hollandaise sauce on lightly toasted muffins, with a few slices of cured ham and salad. Light yet filling, supremely healthy, and surprisingly well matched to a glass of red wine. Before I left the train at Peterborough I asked the chef, who was lingering at the end of his immensely impressive narrow kitchen in the next carriage, how he managed to make such perfect poached eggs on a train. He said it was simple.

“I’m just good, that’s all.”

Not the kitchen tip I was hoping for, but he did disclose that poaching eggs can’t be done without a drop of vinegar in the boiling water to help the eggs thicken and coagulate. Having never poached my own eggs before, I was reminded of this tip during an early morning B&Q trip today. I was accompanying a new homeowner who wanted to buy a new contraption that makes painting easy for those who forget to wash their paintbrushes. After finding the device and purchasing it at half price we stopped at a supermarket on the way home, planning breakfast. Eggs, salmon, hollondaise sauce and bagels were procured, along with a copy of the Saturday Guardian. With some fresh spinach leaves at home, I launched into my first ever attempt to poach some eggs. I must confess that I’m slightly surprised at just how easy it was – the vinegar in the water does indeed help, and by using a spoon to stir a whirlool in the pan of boiling water the egg forms a vaguely contiguous shape that is simultaneously aesthetically pleasing to mount on a toasted bagel. I plan to poach some more in the coming weeks. What with my kitchen being slightly more spacious than that on board a high speed train, and noticeably more stable, I suspect all that is needed is practice.

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One Response

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  1. Daniel said, on 23 August, 2008 at 15:09

    Great post and thanks for the tip about the vinegar.


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