Dishes like baked soufflé or hard-boiled eggs are all about timing, and poached eggs are no exception. They can make for a great addition to a brunch party, but hosting and poaching at the same time can turn into a logistical nightmare. We wanted to find out if it was possible to serve poached eggs and catch up with our brunch guests, without sacrificing quality. In other words, is it possible to poach eggs ahead of time?
To find out, we tapped the brain of Nick Korbee—egg aficionado and chef at New York's Egg Shop—who answered with an emphatic "yes." On Saturday mornings, Korbee prepoaches a couple hundred eggs to get ready for hungry brunchers. Even if you're not feeding an army battalion, follow these tips for hosting a brunch you can actually attend.
Proceed as normal. The night before the brunch, poach your eggs like usual (simmering water, a bit of salt, acid). The only thing you should do differently is slightly undercook them, since they'll cook a bit more when reheated the next morning. As Korbee wisely points out, "If you overcook them in the beginning, they'll be overcooked in the end."
Send them into shock. Take the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop them into an ice and water bath. This will stop the cooking process in its tracks, making sure residual heat doesn't keep the show going, and helps guarantee that perfectly runny yolk. You can store them overnight like this in the refrigerator.
Let them swim. At some point before brunch, the ice in your aforementioned ice bath will melt and turn to water. This doesn't mean you have to keep replenishing the ice—once it melts, cold water will do just fine. Storing eggs in water is important so they don't stick, Korbee says. It also provides a slight natural buffer to prevent them from bumping into each other and keeps them suspended.
Bring back the heat. Go ahead and put all your eggs in one basket. Place the eggs in a pasta colander and lower it into a large pot of boiling water for no more than 30 seconds—the eggs are already mostly cooked, you're just reheating them now. The colander will make you feel less like you're bobbing for apples and ensure that the eggs all cook for the same amount of time. In one fell swoop, you now have enough poached eggs to feed a crowd—and maybe even some extras for dinner.
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