Thursday, August 27, 2015

Eggs ala Ed Bushell

My grandfather, Ed Bushell, used to make eggs for me in the morning. He had an impressive repertoire of recipes, but the one I remember dearly and have attempted to replicate and improve on is probably the simplest as well. It's simply poached eggs on toast, but I find that surprisingly few people know how to make a good poached egg. So here's what I do. You can put one egg on toast or two (I find that two eggs on one piece of toast is the perfect breakfast).


Equipment:

  • Frying or "egg pan" 4-8" wide.
  • Spatula or slotted spoon (non-slotted if you want to make your eggs more runny)
  • Butter knife
  • Toaster
Ingredients:

  • 1-2 eggs (I use large or jumbo)
  • 1-2 pats of butter + butter for toast
  • 1 piece of bread
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 3/4-2 cups water depending on size of pan
Begin by melting 1 generous pat of butter (2 if it's a larger pan) in the pan on medium-high heat. Once fully melted, spread it across the bottom with a spatula or by swirling the pan around. Now add the water. The goal is to have enough water to cover the white of the egg only, so add or remove water to accomplish this, depending on pan size and shape. Bring the water to a vigorous boil.

Now add the vinegar and generous salt and pepper to the water. Crack egg(s) into the water (the vinegar is going to prevent spreading, so you can get them nicely isolated to separate sides of the pan). Let come back to a simmer and lower heat and meanwhile, start the toast. Once the water is back to a simmer, cover and set to very low heat. The toast should be lightly buttered and set on plates before the eggs are done.

Timing from return-to-simmer:

  • 3 min - A wiggly white with liquid yoke (don't use a slotted implement on these, or they will break)
  • 4-4.5 min - A solid white with some liquid in yoke
  • 4.5-5.5 min - Closer to hard-boiled without the shell (5 min can be excellent for egg salad)
Once eggs are cooked, remove from heat and use spatula to place one or two eggs onto each piece of toast as desired (two eggs, one leaning over the other can look really cool and impress a guest). My grandfather would pour a very small amount of the water over the egg once it was on the toast in order to soften the toast and add a hint of the flavor of the vinegar to the egg. This is optional, but if you do so, use about 1 tsp of the water, no more. You're not trying to make toast porridge, here...

Salt and pepper to taste (remember some salt and pepper are in the water and have thus flavored the egg already). Serve with a steak or butter knife and fork. I actually use a smaller salad fork for these, but that's your call.

Additional touches:

Try using cultured, unsalted butter for the toast (don't waste the more expensive butter in the pan, since you mostly throw that out anyway). Cultured butter has a little bit of yogurt tang to it and stays fresh because of the live cultures instead of salt as in most butter. You can usually find this in with other butter, but you have to look at ingredients closely. Sometimes unsalted "European butter" will be of this sort.

Also, a flavored salt can be nice in the water. Even strong flavors like smoked salt can work well because only some of the flavor attaches to the egg itself.

I've tried different breads, and I like the really mild sorts. Some people swear by a rustic wheat or sourdough for poached eggs and I think they're insane, but more power to 'em!

Whatever you do, enjoy!