by Tara Pederson

Eggs Benedict is a beloved brunch dish that has made a wonder of its many components, the star of which is undeniably the poached egg.  While I won’t regale you with tales of that specific culinary delight today, I do want to demystify the intimidating practice of poaching.  And give you recipes to make your own from scratch!

Poach (verb):  cook by simmering in a small amount of  liquid

As difficult as it may seem, and in some cases actually be to perfect the technique, it isn’t complicated, and is a light change on the palate.   Poaching is a gentle cooking method in which foods are partially or fully submerged in simmering liquid, such as water, wine or stock.  It is best for more delicate ingredients – not only eggs, but fruits, fish and poultry. Because it does not involve fats for either lubricant or flavor, it is a healthier way to prepare fresh dishes. Because it lacks caramelization, the liquid itself imparts a great amount of flavor, so don’t hesitate to add fresh or dried herbs to boost the overall experience while preserving soft flavors.

A few easy recipes to treat yourself –

Poached eggs – In a straight-sided skillet, heat about 2 inches of water over medium until bubbles cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Crack each large egg into a separate small bowl (do not use eggs with broken yolks). Gently pour each egg into the pan, leaving room between them. Cook eggs, undisturbed, until white is just set and yolk is still runny, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs from water. Blot the bottom of the spoon on a paper towel to remove excess water before serving.

English muffins – You’ll need:   1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons white sugar, 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast , 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C), 1/4 cup melted shortening, 6 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt.

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until simmering, then remove from heat. Mix in the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, yeast mixture, shortening and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add salt and rest of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise.

Punch down. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty tuna can. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also. Cover and let rise 1/2 hour.

Heat greased griddle. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat. Keep baked muffins in a warm oven until all have been cooked. Allow to cool and place in plastic bags for storage. To use, split and toast.