By Alec Meer on November 1st, 2011 at 11:10 am.
It’s not all news, opinions and minor complaints about videogames round here, you know. The games industry is bigger, brighter and smarter than the flood of trailers about shooting men to death might suggest, and I feel compelled to reflect that. As a new convert to the fine art of the poached egg (how did I manage to miss it all these years?), I was in need of significant help in perfecting the creation of this versatile, bird protein-based dish. But where could I possibly find it from? I turned to the one place I knew I could trust: the games industry. To use vinegar or not to use vinegar? Cling film or bespoke device? Salt or whirlpool? Shallow or deep-pan? There was much to consider. It seemed monstrously selfish to keep the advice of assorted developers, publishers and journalists to myself, however, so allow me to be your spiritual coach to poaching an egg – Oprah Vinegar-Free, if you will.
Contributing to this most essential of features are good folk from the likes of 2K Marin, Reflections, Ubisoft Montreal, Splash Damage, Positech, Honeyslug and Relentless, plus a raft of indie devs and games journos. Many, many thanks to everyone who sent in their eggstraordinary tips. That’s right, I went there.
Andrew Howat, Associate Producer, Ubisoft Reflections (Driver):
“Not mine, as I’m not an egg eater, but my wife would suggest getting one of these. She swears by it. And never at it.”
Ian Roberts, Creative Director, Red Redemption Ltd (Fate of the World):
“Lots of debate among the Fate of the World devs on this one. Klaude (our MD) is of the opinion that vinegar in the water is vital to keep the spheroid membranes from collapsing. Sam, however, has the controversial method of cracking the egg into a cup with a splash of water and nuking it in the microwave… simple but is it really a poached egg? Clearly the carbon footprint of the microwave method is better but what is the cost to deliciousness? Difficult choices and yet both are a compromise – why settle for vinegary eggs or funky texture? Difficult decisions require drastic solutions – I opt for the dangerous “vortex” method where I whip boiling water into a fury and drop the egg into it. It either works beautifully or causes eggy chaos possibly resulting in scolding, swearing and perhaps permanent scarring. No parallels with Fate of the World whatsoever.”
Johnnemann Nordhagen, Programmer, 2K Marin (BioShock 2, XCOM):
“Add a little vinegar to the water – helps the whites hold together. Create a vortex of swirling water; drop the egg in the middle. Oh, and water shouldn’t be bubbling, just very very hot.”
Ed Stern, lead writer, Splash Damage (Enemy Territory, Brink):
“Fuck the vinegar. Not literally. Fuck those silicone moulds. No, it’s a figure of speech. Fuck the frying pan. YES, LITERALLY. The eggs need to be room temperature, as should your room, and it should be a kitchen. There are two methods: one cute, one just perfect.
The cute method is to line a ramekin with a very lightly oiled square of clingfilm, crack the egg into it and then twist the clingfilm shut into a bag/pouch/cooking scrotum. Lower your egg-pouch (the one you just made, I mean, not one you may already be biologically furnished with) into simmering water, cook for three minutes and then dip it into iced water. Don’t let the loose handle of the pouch hang down on the pan or it’ll go evil and kill you. Remove after the aforementioned 3 of your Earth “minutes”, and when the bag is cool enough to touch without shrieking like a girl, the egg is ready and it’s perfect, like a little dimsum. Not your classic poached egg shape, but it works.
Right, I take it back about the vinegar, for this Perfect method, you’ll need one drop thereof. Sort of half-fill a larger pan than you were going to use with water and bring to an angry, unresolved mother-issues sort of boil. Proper pinch of salt, add it. Break an egg (you can only cook one at a time this way) into a small jug or bowl (but a jug is better) and add one (1) drop of vinegar. Not balsamic, it’ll be rank. Now realise you don’t own a balloon whisk. Make or procure a balloon whisk. Now whisk that water unto a very vortex. Whisk it, no, that’s stirring, I said whisk, WHISK I SAY so there’s a whirlpool, a maelstrom, an inverted waterspout. NOW QUICKLY DROP THE JUG ON THE FLOOR. No, wait, into the water. Damn. I’m sorry. Yeah, so, boiling water, whisk really hard, vortex, and then the very moment you stop whisking gently pour/slide the jug of egg into the vortex-shaft. You’ll need to dunk the jug into the water a bit, so that’s why it’s better than using a bowl (unless it’s tiny, in which case you’ll drop it into the water, knowing you). Now turn the heat right down low and cook for EXACTLY THREE MINUTES. Then drain and serve as soon as you can.
If you have taken the precaution of having previously procured sourdough bread and toasted it just right, and then applied a poached egg unto it, maybe with some spinach YOU WILL BE KING OF ALL EGGS. If you can make a foaming hollandaise for eggs benedict, you’re lying, or a professional chef in a very well equipped kitchen. Either way, I will give you folding pictures of the queen to make me some every twenty minutes, all day, for the rest of my life.”
Matt Lees, staff writer, Official Xbox Magazine UK:
“Crack egg into teacup. Heat small pan of water until simmering, then ease teacup into water – gently warming the white and teasing the edge of the egg to begin the cooking process. Remove teacup, and use spoon to create pan-vortex. Gently release egg into vortex. Voila.”
Ricky Haggett, designer and co-founder, Honeyslug (Hohokum):
“Poaching eggs is the ‘Go’ of cooking: simple to learn but hard to master, with seemingly unlimited variations. I like to do my poaching on a Saturday morning after a run, listening to 6music. I used to like poaching to Adam and Joe, but now it’s Andrew Collins and Josie Long.
The most incontrovertible tip I offer is: ensure the eggs are fresh. I buy mine on Friday evening. In England we now have ‘Happy Eggs’, which have quickly become my preferred brand.
I use a 10 inch pan, and I fill it to 3/4s with boiling water from the kettle, with a dash of vinegar. I bring it back to the boil, then down to a very gentle simmer on a small gas ring, with just a couple of bubbles rising per second: the key is to have the water as still as possible; I don’t go for a swirling vortex – as I’ve achieved at best only limited success with one egg, and it seems impossibly chaotic with more.
So I open the eggs carefully, right on the surface of the water. Even if I burn the tips of my fingers, I want them lowered in gently so the water cradles them for a gentle descent. With unperturbed water, fresh eggs and steady hands, the white shouldn’t spread too much, which should ensure both a pleasing final shape, and that the yolk be protected from overcooking.
No-one can tell you how long to poach eggs for – it depends how you like the yoke. My technique is to put my bread down in the toaster on setting 4 just before putting the eggs in, and lift them out again when the toast pops. This gives me a runny yoke inside, but with some slightly more solid yolk closer to the edges. Practice practice practice!
My serving suggestion is on with toasted sourdough bread, topped with smoked salmon, black pepper and accompanied by fresh coffee and orange juice.”
Cliff Harris, founder, Positech Games (Gratuitous Space Battles):
“You have to have all the right kit. And make sure you have the latest drivers for your eggs.”
Caspian Prince, founder, Puppy Games (Revenge of the Titans):
“Pop egg in a small plastic pot with a drop of oil. Place in a small pan of boiling water with the lid on for 4 minutes.”
Rich Edwards, Rich Make Game! (Pineapple Smash Crew):
“Nothing fancy to it.. simmer the water till it’s just bubbling, then bring it down a little till the water is more still. crack an egg into a small bowl/cup, then very slowly pour the egg into the water. Now (slowly) bring the water temperature back up till it’s just bubbling again. cook for 1-2 mins (starting from when you put the egg in). Remove carefully and trim any small whispy bits if they have developed. If you’re gonna do another try remove any stray bits of egg from the saucepan with a strainery-ladle.”
Ian Hatch, AI programmer, Ubisoft Montreal:
“Pan, vinegar, swirl.”
Jonathan ‘Bidds’ Biddle, design director, Curve Studios (Explodemon):
“Add a capful of vinegar, then stir the pan of boiling water (3-4″ deep) so there’s a whirlpool. Break egg into centre of whirlpool. Water should be simmering, not violently bubbling. Cook for just under 3 mins for that runny yolk joy.”
Dan Marshall, founder, Size Five Games (Time Gentlemen, Please!):
“Bottomless ramekin rings are a poached egg’s best friend, keeps it all super tidy. Also, brown sauce.”
Pat Garratt, editor, Videogaming247.com:
“Still, gently boiling water and lots of vinegar. The acid sets the egg quickly so you don’t get explodo-egg. A brave man attempts poached eggs with no vinegar, fresh or nay. They use vinegar in every restaurant I’ve ever worked in. They keep them on ice, then reheat them for service.”
Michael Brough, smestorp (Vertex Dispenser):
“I like to poach them in oil with parsley and pepper.”
Ben Parfitt, editor, MCVUK.com:
“Don’t be afraid to spoon boiling water onto the top of the poaching egg to ensure an even cook.”
Kerry Turner, Littleloud (The Curfew, Sweat Shop):
“I use the old cling film trick.”
Kieron Gillen, father of the New Games Journalism:
“I’d suggest lightly olive oil-ing the cling film before adding the egg.”
Ian Hardingham, designer/programmer, Mode 7 Games (Frozen Synapse):
“My wife poaches my eggs using this weird plastic device which looks a bit like a flower.”
Tom Hatfield, PC Gamer:
“No matter how well you poach it, no-one will ever accept that it’s as well poached as the eggs they enjoyed when they were a child.”
Joe Martin, games editor, Bit-Tech/Custom PC:
“Ducks eggs work way better than chicken eggs.”
Lizi Attwood, programmer, Relentless Software (Buzz!):
“Use a crap load of white wine vinegar, basically.”
Thanks, games industry! Truly, you have made the world a better place this day.