(April 12, 2019) Creative cooking is about thinking out of the box, so let us take a moment to deconstruct a popular presumption for further knowledge and comprehension.
Fact vs opinion insinuates a degree of opposing certainties. But as we analyze this theory, one might rethink what has been perceived as a foregone conclusion.
If facts and opinions are two different perspectives, theoretically they cannot be contrary to each other. Facts are varying degrees of certainty, while opinions are individual points of view.
This may seem trivial, but the realm of culinary distinction requires the difference to be made perfectly clear. Allow me to explain.
I am gearing up for another cooking competition and every ingredient and thought process must be scrutinized to the fullest degree.
Cooking competitions are judged on taste, presentation and level of difficult.
As I test the various possibilities, I must keep in mind that on any given day, depending on the judges and their personal preferences, a different winner can be declared, and it is this fact that keeps competition a fun event.
That being said, one component of my dish will include poached eggs encased in some type of a nest.
I have basically two options: a potato or a shredded phyllo nest. Since I know how to make a potato nest, I have opted to experiment with the phyllo.
There are different approaches to this dish, and I found that a mashed potato foundation is the easiest to work with.
The mashed potatoes must have a firm consistency. Cooking the potatoes and putting them through a ricer produces the best results. Do not add butter or milk, the potato mixture will be soggy and hard to work with.
Next, I need to make a “glue” so the strands of dough will adhere to the foundation of the mashed potatoes. Simply mix all-purpose flour and water to form a thin paste. The ratio of all-purpose flour and water is four tablespoons of flour to seven tablespoons of water.
The next step is a little tricky. Form the nest out of the mashed potatoes. Then, place the glue mixture in a small container, but the container needs to be large enough so you can spoon the glue mixture on top of the nest. Make sure the entire surface area is covered in glue.
Gingerly lift the nest out of the glue and place it on a plate. Cover it completely with shredded phyllo, then carefully lower it into hot cooking oil. It will not take long for the dough to cook.
Once the nest is cooked, it is important to set it on a cooling rack. I do not understand the philosophy of developing a gorgeous, crispy crust and then placing it on a plate lined with paper towels. The finished product sits on a soggy surface which defeats all of your hard work.
Let’s move onto the second phase of this dish. I adore eggs, especially poached eggs. There is something so seductive about a runny yolk.
Cooking poached eggs can be a little intimidating so a quick review follows. The most difficult dilemma when poaching eggs is to control the raw egg’s natural tendency to spread out in all directions before it sets.
Believe it or not but each egg contains two types of whites. There is a thicker portion which clings more tightly to the yolk, and a thinner portion which is looser and breaks away much easier.
According to Cook’s Illustrated, the ratio of the thick and thin egg white depends on the egg’s age. In the freshest eggs, 60 percent of the white is thick, but as the egg ages, it drops to 50 percent and lower.
Cook’s Illustrated suggests draining off the watery whites in a colander before poaching. I find it is easier to trim the unattractive pieces after the cooking process.
Another concern when poaching eggs is to ensure the yolks stay running while the whites reach the right degree of firmness. Adding a few splashes of vinegar and a dash of salt to the simmering water lowers the pH, which makes the proteins in the whites set faster.
Cook’s Illustrated suggests using 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt for every 6 cups of water.
Crack one egg at a time and place in individual small ramekins. Gently transfer eggs, one at a time, to simmering water. Poach for 3 to 4 minutes, gently spooning the simmering water over the edges to ensure the entire egg is cooked.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer eggs to a plate lined in paper towels. Trim any loose or unattractive white strings.
Easter is around the corner and eggs are always on the menu. Poached eggs nestled in a phyllo nest is decadent and delicious.
If you want to get in touch with your competitive side and wow your guests, consider serving a phyllo dough nest adorned with poached eggs. Have fun!
Secret Ingredient – Competition. “The only competition of a wise man is within himself.”
– Washington Allston