This month's Daring Cooks challenge was poached eggs (well, poached anything, but they did recommend starting with eggs if you haven't poached before). Now, Joe (oops - Mr. Leaven) is a poached egg aficionado, so much so that his wonderful mother-in-law gave him an egg poaching pan for Christmas last year (and guaranteed his undying affection), but I had never even eaten a poached egg prior to last Christmas and have relied on him for any poaching needs since that time. I almost never get a hankering for an egg in any form, but I'm not against the things. And knowing how much my darling hubby loves them, I was more than a little excited to give them a try.
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 Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.
I decided to start with the classic, Eggs Benedict, although I decided to make them with smoked salmon (which is apparently an Eggs Montreal). We made a Hollandaise sauce in our little cooking class series from early this year (another Christmas gift from 2009, this one from Joe to me) and did very much enjoy it, but that is a heck of a lot of calories, fat and cholesterol. So I did a little research (funny how much easier Google makes research - remember having to Xerox articles, use that little card catalog drawer at the library, scroll through microfiche...) and found some healthy (-er) alternatives. The option I chose called for one of my very favoritest things, Greek yogurt, and I happened to have some homemade yogurt on stock, so I was good to go.
I opted to use store-bought English muffins, although I hear this Alton Brown recipe is great, because I've never really loved English muffins and didn't want to invest much on that portion of the menu.
And then, as I was making the mock Hollandaise, I went to poach the eggs but forgot to do anything but slip them into the little poaching cups. It turns out when DH makes them he lightly oils or butters the cups. And I didn't add vinegar or salt. And 3 minutes later the eggs were so stuck to the cups that I had to basically saw them out, which isn't the best way to treat poached eggs. Those things were glued on. I soaked the cups in hot water, used soap, scrubbed, and still there was residue. Grrr. The eggs looked ridiculous too, with the whites on top of the salmon and the yolk in a lovely pile beside the muffin. Joe was very kind and said they were beautiful and delicious, but he has to say that. I wouldn't even let him take a picture (which, as you who know him understand, was a struggle). I do admit that it tasted pretty good, although with the sauce and the egg we couldn't even identify the salmon.
So I figured I'd try again, and the second attempt was mostly successful. In the comments on the DK website, someone mentioned a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for poached eggs in tomato sauce, which I had wanted to try at the time it was posted. I used her recipe for shakshuka, which is an Israeli dish (represent!) adapted from the North Africans and involves cooking a spicy tomato sauce first followed by slipping those eggs right on top for about 5 minutes. I used 3 eggs, because there were only 2 of us for goodness' sake, and saved the leftover tomato sauce for another day. I do wish I'd used 4, because this was quite delicious and I had to watch the hubby devour the 2nd egg because I love him.
2 English muffins
4 slices of smoked salmon (we used gravlax)
Chives or dill, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)
from food.com - don't know if this is the original source
makes approximately 1 cup
3 egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) plain yogurt
2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2 mL) Celtic sea salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp (15 mL) dill chopped (or dried)
[optional: 1 Tsp arrowroot powder]
In a double boiler whisk eggs, yogurt and lemon juice.
Cook uncovered, stirring regularly with a spatula, for about 15 minutes or until thickened. If a thicker consistency is desired, mix one teaspoon arrowroot powder with one tablespoon water and add to mixture.
Remove from heat and stir in mustard, dill, salt and pepper.
Bring 2–3 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do, from what I hear).
Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.
While waiting for the eggs, toast your English muffins.
Top each half of English muffin with a piece of smoked salmon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the salmon. Top with Hollandaise and chopped chives or dill, and enjoy!
ShakshukaServes 4 to 6
1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim chiles or 3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving [my only deviation from the recipe as written - I toasted some baguettes instead, because of my Mediterranean food aversion]
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands.
Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes (this was a little long for me - I should have removed them earlier for a runnier yolk).
Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with bread, for dipping.