January 01, 2007
The Magic of Sous Vide
posted by Nadia

Many moons ago, I had an utterly sublime poached egg at the Tasting Room in New York. Shortly thereafter, I spent most of a perfectly good weekend trying to recreate this bliss at home. I poached quick and fast, low and slow, in pouches made of cling wrap, in ring molds, and I can't even remember the other configurations. Eventually I came across a New York Times article in which Thomas Keller revealed that the secret to a perfectly poached egg is sous vide cooking at 64.5° Celsius (about 148° Fahrenheit).

Well, let me be the first to tell you that the average home cook will have a rough time keeping a pot of water on the stove at a constant 148° for 45 minutes straight. Trust me, I took the time to try -- and while the results were certainly better than traditional poaching, hovering over the stove for the better part of an hour with one hand on a probe thermometer and the other fiddling with the gas knob is not my idea of a good time.

The only solution is to somehow acquire a boyfriend brilliant enough to hunt down an old piece of lab equipment on eBay, refurbish the temperature sensor, clean off all the corrosion, do a test-run of poached eggs at work surrounded by skeptical co-workers, and finally present the whole apparatus to you on your birthday. That, my friends, is the way to go.

Sublime Poached Eggs

Buy the freshest eggs you can find. Drop them into a 64.5° Celsius water bath. Pull them out after 45 minutes, and let them rest until they're cool enough to handle. Carefully crack the shell, pour out the glistening gelatinous egg, sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and devour.

If you can't bear a 45-minute wait before you've had your morning coffee, you can make these the night before and store them in a container of water in the fridge. When you're ready for breakfast, pull them out of the fridge, plop them in the sous vide at 64.5° until they warm up (about 5 minutes), and serve.

Curious Sous Vide Question No. 1: "If you're preparing the eggs the night before, why not just leave them in the water bath all night rather than fiddle with refrigeration and reheating? If the water stays at a constant 64.5 degrees, shouldn't eggs cooked overnight come out the same as eggs cooked for 45 minutes?" Readers, I, too, thought that these were legitimate questions. Unfortunately, we tested it out and I lost not only my dignity, but also $5. Congrats to Chris Vickery, who is too smart for his own good.