Sunday, 23 December 2012


If this post had a topic sentence, it would somehow have to include the following three points:

  • Poached eggs are fantastic, but they are the bane of my existence.
  • Fresh herbs are amazing, unparalleled in their ability to transform a dish.
  • Rainbow chard is absolutely gorgeous (AND it packs a massive nutritional punch).

Beginning from the end, my third point pretty much speaks for itself.  The colors in the stems of rainbow chard are some of the most vibrant and stunning I have ever seen in nature.  If you haven't yet introduced this gorgeous leafy green into your diet, go get some immediately.  Not only will it stimulate your aesthetic senses, but it is mega-nutritious!  Fun fact: chard includes a flavonoid called syringic acid, which helps regulate our blood sugar levels, and the phytonutrients in its pigments are anti-inflammatory and detoxifying for our bodies!*  Pretty cool.

Also very basic but totally life-changing (for me) was the introduction of fresh herbs into my cooking. In a simple dish, like a salad or eggs, fresh herbs can elevate the flavors in an incredible way.  It's great to experiment with different food + herb pairings to see what really works for you.  I am absolutely crazy about sweet potatoes with rosemary.  And when making a poached egg on toast, I found that sprinkling the top with bits of fresh rosemary and dill truly transformed a good, warming breakfast into a sensation for my taste buds. Sometimes it really is the little things that make the biggest difference.

Now, onto those dastardly poached eggs.  So elegant in all the restaurants, so wet and amoebic and awkward at home. Perfecting the art of the homemade poached egg consistently escapes me.  The whites fly everywhere in the pot, it bursts open before I can get it from the water to the plate, its yolk stubbornly set when I pierce it with my knife...the problems seem endless.  I have done my reading, I have watched internet 'How-To' videos, I have attempted numerous methods.  I have poured vinegar into the water, squeezed fresh lemon, created a whirlpool, cracked the egg directly in, slid it in from a get my gist.  In all my attempts, these are the things I've learned:

  • Freshness matters.  The fresher the egg, the more likely the whites will stay together, surrounding the yolk, and not uncontrollably float away.
  • Temperature matters.  The water should be just simmering, little bubbles barely breaking the surface.  It might help to bring the water to a boil and then reduce it to this on-the-verge-of simmering state.
  • Vinegar matters.  You can use other agents to help the white congeal, like lemon juice, but I have found that adding a generous splash of plain vinegar to the water works best.
  • Whirlpool-vortex...maybe doesn't matter.  I haven't found that creating a whirlpool in the pot in which to slide the egg really works to help the whites form around the yolk, but try it!  It might work better for you.  I do often use my spoon to nudge the whites around the yolk right after it goes into the pot though.
  • Cracking the egg into a cup and then easing it into the water with the cup is a useful tactic.  Careful not to dip your hand into the water when doing so though.  I made that mistake once.  It hurt.
  • Cooking the egg for four minutes is the right amount of time if you want a runny yolk.

My poached eggs are still far from perfect, but my failed attempts are becoming far less frequent.  If you're a more visual learner, you can watch a tutorial here.

At the end of the day, this eggs-on-toast with caramelized shallots, chard and fresh herbs would be delicious with any kind of egg--poached, fried, or scrambled.  As long as you've got all the elements there, your taste buds AND your body will thank you.  It's just that kind of dish.

Herbed Poached Egg with Caramelized Shallots + Chard
Serves one

Thick slice of wholegrain toast
1 medium shallot
1 large or 2 medium chard leaves
1 garlic clove
1 fresh egg, poached
a few sprigs of fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, dill, sage, thyme all work well)

1.  Mince garlic and slice shallot into thick strips, lengthwise.
2.  Heat a generous bit of olive oil (1/2 Tbsp. or so) in a small pan.  Sauté minced garlic on medium-low heat until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
3.  Add shallot and stir until completely coated with oil.  Reduce heat to low and let cook until translucent and beginning to caramelize, 7-10 minutes.  Toss the shallots around the pan a few times during this process, but don't get over-zealous with your stirring!  Best to let them sit.
4.  While the shallots are cooking, remove chard leaves from their stems (but save the stems to cook in another dish later; they're edible!).  Slice leaves into moderately thick strips.
5.  Once the shallots have begun to caramelize, add chard to the pan and sauté until just wilted, about 3 minutes.
6.  Place shallots and chard on toast.  Top off with poached egg and fresh herbs.

*Information from


  1. Aaah good old egg poaching! I was terrified of trying it out for so long, and now I've learnt I wonder what was holding me back so much. Fresh eggs and a generous splash of vinegar definitely go a long way towards egg poaching success :)

  2. Hi Seph! Nice to know I'm not the only one who was terrified of poaching eggs :). Now that I know how, it's my favorite way to eat them. Although the process is still a bit of a production. Somehow my kitchen always ends up messier than I expect it will be!