Poached Eggs and Hollandaise a la Julia Child

My friend The Hoff and I joke how we spend most of our Sunday morning yoga class thinking about what we’re going to eat when we’re done. This past Sunday, all I could think about was having another go at poached eggs and hollandaise with greens.

The previous week I tried to do an Egg Florentine-y thing with English muffins, sauteed greens, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I overcooked the eggs, the hollandaise was too thin, and nothing finished together, so the dish had hot and cold elements. Even with all that, it wasn’t bad. But I wanted to see if I could do better.

So I turned to my recently acquired copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking that my mom unearthed from her basement.

First, though, the poached eggs (which Linda Holmes, aka Miss Ally from Television without Pity, attempted recently, too, and wrote about at NPR.)

How to poach eggs

To transfer the egg from the shell to the water you may either break it directly into the water as described below, or break it into a saucer, tile the saucer directly over the water, and slip the egg in.

A saucepan or skillet 8 to 10 inches in diameter and 2.5 to 3 inches deep
Vinegar (which helps the eggs hold their shape)
4 very fresh eggs
A wooden spoon or spatula
A skimmer or slotted spoon
A bowl of cold water
A bowl of hot water containing 1.5 tsp. salt per quart
A clean towel

1. Pour 2 inches of water into the pan or skillet and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water. Bring to the simmer.

2. Break one of the eggs, and, holding it as closely over the water as possible, let it fall in. Immediate and gently push the white over the yolk with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 seconds. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.

Eggs poaching

(My eggs were not very fresh, as the recipe specifies, which perhaps accounts for the “ghosting” of the whites.)

3. After 4 minutes, remove the first eggs with the skimmer and test with your finger. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. Place the egg in the cold water; this washes off the vinegar and stops the cooking. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done, and poach others in the same water if you are doing more. (*) The eggs may remain for several hours in cold water, or may be drained and refrigerated.

Poached eggs in cold water

Next, I warmed one of the biscuits my husband G. Grod made while I was at yoga, and thawed some frozen spinach.

Biscuit and spinach

Then I reheated the eggs according to instruction and placed them atop the biscuits:

To reheat eggs, trim off any trailing bits of white with a knife. Place them in hot, salted water for about half a minute to heat them through. Remove one at a time with a slotted spoon. Holding a folded towel under the spoon, roll the egg back and forth for a second to drain it, and it is ready to serve.

biscuit spinach and poached egg

Julia suggests making hollandaise by hand before using her blender recipe so that the cook can learn how egg yolks behave. I was ravenous after yoga class, so ignored this and took on the blender recipe.

Hollandaise Sauce Made in the Electric Blender

This very quick method for making hollandaise cannot fail when you add your butter in a small stream of droplets. If the sauce refuses to thicken, pour it out, then pour it back into the whizzing machine in a thin stream of droplets. As the butter cools, it begins to cream and forms itself into a thick sauce. If you are used to handmade hollandaise, you may find the blender variety lacks something in quality; this is perhaps due to complete homogenization. But as the technique is well within the capabilities of an 8-year-old child, it has much to recommend it.

For about 3/4 cup

3 egg yolks
2 Tb. lemon juice (I’d use less; this was very tart)
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of pepper
4 oz. or 1 stick of butter
A towel, if you do not have a splatterproof blender jar

1. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, and seasoning in the blender jar.
2. Cut the butter into pieces and heat it to foaming hot in a small saucepan.
3. Cover the jar and blend the egg yolk mixture at top speed for 2 seconds. Uncover, and still blending at top speed, immediately start pouring on the hot butter in a thin stream of droplets. (You may need to protect yourself with a towel during this operation.) By the time two thirds of the butter has gone in, the sauce will be a thick cream. Omit the milky residue at the bottom of the butter pan. Taste the sauce, and blend in more seasoning if necessary. (*) If not used immediately, set the jar in tepid, but not warm, water.

And so, here was my second attempt at poached eggs with hollandaise.

Poached eggs with spinach on biscuit with hollandaise

The biscuits weren’t sturdy enough, the spinach was too we, and the recipe made far more hollandaise than I needed. But still, a big improvement over last weekend’s attempt, especially in the consistency of the sauce.

5 Responses to “Poached Eggs and Hollandaise a la Julia Child”

  1. Steph Says:

    I once tried to make a hollandaise sauce to accompany poached asparagus (how French!). It was a disaster! I think it was perhaps too runny and the flavor profile was all wrong. Earlier this summer I also attempted homemade mayonnaise, which had the right consistency but we used only olive oil which has too strong a flavor, I think, and so it didn’t taste quite right either (it tasted a lot like an olive oil spread). Clearly I have not had the best of luck with using raw eggs…

  2. girldetective Says:

    We’re so used to jarred mayo, I think, that the real thing _will_ taste odd. Any olive oil would probably have flavor; canola would make more sense to make it more bland. We had good luck on Sunday with our raw eggs (even if they weren’t very fresh–they’d been 1/2 price the day before!) because after I made the hollandaise, we had salmon for supper and I told G to do whatever he wanted with it. He made wasabi mayo, which was quite good, but the 3/4 cup it produced was perhaps overkill for one fish dinner.

  3. thalia Says:

    H makes v good poached eggs. His technique is to swirl the water just before dropping the egg in. This wraps any stray bits of white around the yolk so that the finished product is very neat.

    Your breakfast looks really good.

  4. Steph Says:

    The recipe I followed for the mayo said to use all olive oil, but if I should ever try it again, I will certainly NOT do that. We have some vegetable oil on hand that should be flavorless, so I would probably try that… But I fully admit that since then I have stuck to using the jar stuff. I would love to be able to make fresh made garlic aioli, however. I love that stuff!

  5. G. Grod Says:

    Bittman’s mayo recipe says use 1 cup vegetable oil, like canola for a single egg yolk. He suggests replacing some of that oil with olive oil for a richer flavor. Julia Child’s recipe suggests not trying to get a whole cup of oil to suspend with one yolk on your first try - so I used 3/4 cup canola + a couple tbls sesame oil for the wasabi mayo. Maybe I could try to split a yolk in two next time to make less.