Spinach, chorizo & baby potato salad with a sous vide poached egg

by Jeanne on January 18, 2013

in Recipes - eggs, Recipes - gluten-free, Salads

Post image for Spinach, chorizo & baby potato salad with a sous vide poached egg

 

The human brain likes things to work in predictable ways. It’s comforting to know that the shoe we left by the front door when we went to  bed will remain there.  (Of course, when the dog decides to bring it to our bedside in the  middle of the night, our brains tend not to expect it there so we trip over it, stub our toes, swear a lot and make dire threats to the dog who sits there wagging his tail and grinning throughout.) It’s comforting to know that things in the oven tend to heat up and things in the fridge tend to cool down; that things that we drop tend to fall down instead of up; and that water boils at hight temperature and freezes at a low temperature. Any deviation from these comfortingly familiar norms is likely to throw our brains  into a tailspin. I’ve been cooking for myself for quite a number of years now and I think I have a fairly good grip on how things work in the kitchen.  Egg whites will whip up, given a clean bowl and a bit of elbow grease; butter and  chocolate will melt if heated; and sugar will magically caramelise if left in a hot pan. And, as every schoolboy knows, poached eggs can be prepared with solid whites and runny yolks, but not the other way around. Or so I thought.  But clearly that was the day before Mr Sous Vide Supreme came to town (or to my kitchen, at any rate!).

COOKING EGGS SOUS VIDE

I’ve already done a couple of posts about my experiments with my Sous Vide Supreme machine:  a recipe for sous vide oxtail stew (which includes a detailed explanation of what sous vice cooking entails), and a recipe for duck breasts cooked sous vide with a charred orange and Cointreau sauce.  So I will restrict myself to a very brief recap here: sous vide cooking involves cooking food in vacuum-sealed pouches in a water bath slowly over a long period of time, at relatively low but constant temperatures. The benefits, when you cook meat, are that the juices stay in the meat rather than cooking out, resulting in a moist end product packed with flavour, and uniformly cooked throughout. But obviously an egg and a slab of rump steak are rather different beasts – and I was about to find out how different! The first difference is, of course, that unlike a steak which needs  vacuum sealing, an egg comes in its own convenient integrated sealed packaging, in the form of its shell. Purists say that it is strictly incorrect to speak about cooking an egg sous vide (meaning under vacuum) as the egg shell is not a vacuum seal, so I am hedging my bets with “sous vide” and “poached” both appearing in the title.

HOW TO COOK THE PERFECT SOUS VIDE EGG

The perfect sous vide egg (also known as the 60-minute boiled egg!) is something of an enigma, a culinary holy grail. Surely it can’t be that difficult, I thought?  I mean – hot water, an egg, some spare time.  What can go wrong? Much has been written about the cooking of eggs sous vide and my favourite piece for its detailed explanation of the science of the process and its diligent testing is by Fresh Meals Solutions (which quotes Douglas Baldwin‘s excellent book on the topic of sous vide cooking).  In brief, an egg is a pretty complicated piece of kit.  It consists of various forms of protein, and these different proteins with their unique biological structure all start to solidify at slightly different temperatures and rates. For example, at 61.5 C, the albumen (white) coagulates to form a loose gel; but it is only when it reaches 70 C that it coagulates to form a firm and opaque gel and at 84.5 C that it becomes rubbery.  The yolk, on the other hand, already starts to form a tender gel at 64.5 C and gets firmer and firmer as the temperature increases (the consistency of the yolk being a function not only of temperature, but of cooking time).

Now usually when we poach or boil eggs, this works in our favour. The egg goes into the water and gradually heats up from the outside in, meaning that while the white is already hitting the firm gel stage at 70 C, the yolk is only just forming a tender gel.  Whip the egg out of the water at this sage and you have a perfectly runny yolk encased in white that is firm enough to handle with your hands. I figured it could not be so different with sous vide eggs (a classic case of fools rushing in!) – thus started my three attempts at this particular salad. What I learnt almost immediately were  the practical consequences of the physics lesson ab0ve – and how unsettled your brain gets when things no longer work the way it expects them to.  You see, if  you heat your eggs to a temperature lower than 70 C, the yolk may be setting… but the white?  Not so much. So whereas the yolks of my sous vide eggs assumed seductive textures ranging from runny honey to lemon curd, the whites remained… frankly unattractively un-solid, clinging desperately to the yolk in a somewhat, erm, phlegm-like way. As soon as you cracked the cooked egg, the watery white would spill out, meaning that your plating was instantly messed up and the yolk left looking rather under-dressed. Much reading later, I discovered that a way around this unsettling but perfectly normal outcome of cooking eggs sous vide is to par-boil the egg so that the white starts to set, but not the yolk; then chilling the egg and cooking as per normal in the sous vide machine – a noticeable improvement. But as I was to discover, experimentation is the key to find your perfect sous vide egg. Here is a brief rundown of my eggy experiments:

TAKE 1

Method: Eggs cooked sous vide at 62.5 C for 60 minutes

Result:  Delicious yolks the consistency of runny honey but unattractively semi-set, semi-opaque white with an alarming tendency to separate from the yolk and disappear under the spinach leaves. Not worth photographing!

TAKE 2

Method: Eggs cooked sous vide at 63.5 C for 75 minutes

Result:  Delicious yolks the consistency of thick lemon curd, but the white puzzlingly not much more set than the first attempt.  The liquid portion of the white still tended to spill out of the shell upon cracking, and only cracking them into ramekins first and then spooning the most congealed portion onto the salad yielded visually acceptable results.  Tasty, though! [Note: the first and last pictures in this post feature this egg]

 

Sous vide egg 63C © J Horak-Druiff 2013

 

Sous vide egg salad 63C © J Horak-Druiff 2013

 

TAKE 3

Method: Eggs par-boiled for 3 minutes and then rapidly cooled in a bowl of iced water.  Left to coll in the water for about 30 minutes, then cooked sous vide at 64 C for 60 minutes.

Result: A definite improvement and the best result yet! There was a lot less watery liquid in the shell and you could actually crack the egg directly over the salad.  The new issue with the white, though, was that while it had set fairly well near the shell, it was still pretty jelly-like near the yolk, resulting in the yolk and some of the white coming out of the shell easily, but the firmer layer remaining behind in the shell and having to be removed with a spoon.  The yolk was once again delicious and had the approximate consistency of Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

 

Sous vide egg salad 64C © J Horak-Druiff 2013

 

THE VERDICT

1.  Cooking an egg sous vide is not a substitute for soft-boiling or poaching.  You will get delicious results (with a little perseverance!); you will get intriguing results – but you will not replicate the effects of conventional cooking.

2.  The crazy honey/mayonnaise/lemon curd consistency of the yolk might not be to everybody’s taste, but I am quite smitten with it. I am thinking of spreading it on toast soon…

3.  Unless you like chasing your egg whites around the plate in semi-liquid form, par-boiling your eggs before sous vide cooking is definitely the way forward.

4.  These are (not yet) the eggs I’m looking for. More experimentation is needed – for example par boiling, then cooking low and slow – say 63 for 120 minutes. But I am convinced that I will get there in the end!

Given that  I have made it three times already, it’s a good thing this salad is so simple and delicious – even Nick has not complained about its repeated appearance on our table.  I love the hot/cold contrast as well as the spiciness of the chorizo that is so nicely offset by the creaminess of the eggs and the freshness of the spinach.  Of course, you do not need a sous vide machine to make it – it would work just as well with a poached egg.  But think of the fun you could have experimenting to find your perfect sous vide egg…

 

Sous vide egg salad final © J Horak-Druiff 2013

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
Spinach, chorizo & baby potato salad with a sous vide poached egg
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This salad is simple to make yet packed with flavour - you can use a soft poached egg instead of a sous vide egg.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 baby potatoes
  • 200g chorizo, sliced
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
  • olive oil for frying and dressing
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Fill the sous vide machine and pre-heat it to 64C. Once it is ready, carefully place the eggs in the water, close the lid and set the timer for 60 minutes.
  2. Steam or par-boil the baby potatoes until they are tender on the outside but are still crunchy in the centre. Slice them into thin slices.
  3. Ten minutes before the eggs are ready, heat the chorizo over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan just till it starts to sizzle, then scoop onto a plate lined with paper towel and keep warm.
  4. In the same pan, heat a little olive oil over medium-high heat, add the sliced potatoes and allow to cook until the slices are turning golden brown. Turn over and repeat on the other side. When they are almost done, return the chorizo to the pan to heat through.
  5. Divide the washed spinach leaves among four plates and scatter a quarter of the chorizo and potato slices.
  6. Top each plate with one of the shelled eggs from the sous vide machine, drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

 

DISCLOSURE:  I received the sous vide machine and vacuum sealer for free from Sous Vide Supreme for review purposes. 

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise | TLT January 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

Nothing beats a perfectly poached egg (I hate it when I get all exited and it’s totally cooked when I cut it open) and yours looks absolutely delicious; with that golden egg yolk oozing out. Yum! Love the idea of this salad, great bold flavours!

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hah – I though it was just me who tried to do too may things at once, wanders off and forgets about the eggs till they are poached into solidity… You really would love the salad, and as I say it’s totally possible to replace the sous vide eggs with poached eggs!

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Kit January 18, 2013 at 9:23 am

The salad looks lovely and the lemon curd egg yolk intriguing.
Is it the spirit of scientific discovery that is inspiring you? … cos I can’t help noticing that it’s a rather time-consuming way to cook an egg!
It’s good to know the science of egg whites and yolks – maybe I should get a cooking thermometer to check when my eggs are done in future to get that perfect point before the whites turn rubbery.

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

The salad is truly lovely, whether using eggs cooked sous vide or conventionally. And yes – this was an exercise in scientific discovery and experimentation! It is definitely not the quickest or easiest way to cook an egg, but it is a classic item to cook sous vide so it had to be done, and the results were fascinating. I really was intrigued by the science of eggs! But a word of warning – the temperatures I mention are the egg’s INTERNAL temperatures – measuring the water temperature with a cooking thermometer will not tell you much of use…

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Sally - My Custard Pie January 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

You’ve got more patience than I have Jeanne. I suppose the burning question is whether a sous vide egg is superior in taste (to conventional poaching).

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Oh it wasn’t hard – you pop the eggs in and then have 60 mins to prepare the rest of the meal, read a book, check Twitter, write a blog post…! ;) I’d say it requires advance planning rather than patience. I’m not sure you can say definitively whether sous vide eggs taste BETTER – but having the yolk in a consistency that is neither liquid, nor cooked-to-dry-death means you… taste it more – you are more aware of the flavour. Does that make sense??

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bellini January 18, 2013 at 10:17 am

You certainly stuck with it this time Jeanne. Cooking eggs sous vide is a labour of love.

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Ain’t it just?? But the nice thing is that there was a yummy meal at the end of each experiment ;)

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Karin@yumandmore January 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Your patience and scientific dedication (and Nick willingness to go along) are admirable Jeanne! I can’t help wonder though about the energy needed to cook an egg for 65 or 75 minutes sous vide as opposed to 3, 5, 5 ,6 minutes in water with shell or poached. I can see the point behind meat or other ingredients that can definitely be improved but an egg???
BTW: Can one cook more than 1 bag/thing at a time in general to take advantage of the energy?
Love the recipe though no matter how the egg is done!
xox Karin

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

LOL – I am not a patient person, I just like checking out all angles ;o) And Nick actualyl requested this salad last weekend, sous vide eggs and all!

An interesting point about the energy usage – the thing is that the temperature you cook at is not very high (unlike, say 180C to cook something in an oven) and maintaining a temparature does not take nearly as much energy as achieving it in the first place. So you can actually fill your sous vide with hot tap water which will reduce the heat-up time and energy. My sous vide is about the size of a bread machine and you can fill it with as many eggs, vac packed steaks or whatever as you can fit, while still leaving space for the water to circulate. One of the benefits of sous vide is that you CAN cook multiple courses at once. Provided you select the same cooking temperature for everything (say 65C), then you just work out houw loong each thing needs in the water and insert and remove them in sequence – so if the steak needs 6 hours, you put that in at noon; the potatoes need 2 hours, you put those in at 4; and the eggs need 1 hour, you put those in at 5 – and you van serve all 3 as part of dinner at 6 having only heated up the machine once.

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Kit January 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Now that really does sound clever – now I see the point!

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Also meant to add – this is an interesting piece I found about the energy costs of cooking sous vide: http://cuisinetechnology.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/the-cost-of-cooking-sous-vide/

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Karin@yumandmore January 18, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Thank you Jeanne that sounds quite smart and economical!
In that light the egg does make sense. Will stick with steaming me thinks!
;D

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All Seasons Catering January 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

What a fantastic salad recipe! I won’t be able to use it in my catering business, for reasons of time and economy, but I’ll certainly try it for the family as soon as I have time.
Keep posting – and add Australia to your list of countries! lol

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Yes, I can imagine it is probably not for mass catering… but do definitely try it for the family! It’s filling yet not heavy, and so tasty! And yes, one day I will make it to Oz… :)

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Rosa January 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm

A fabulous salad and wonderful way of poaching eggs! Humans are creatures of habit. Routine soothes us…

Cheers,

Rosa

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Jeanne January 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm

You are so right – routine is the great soother of the human mind!! :)

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Mona Wise January 23, 2013 at 7:47 am

Love….the egg. That salad is my kind of salad Jeanne.
And sorry I missed the new site reveal…it is just sparkly and gorgeous … Love it!

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Jeanne January 24, 2013 at 12:11 am

I must say, that egg is (occasionally!) worth the trouble! The consistency of that yolk… Swoon. Glad you like the new site – it was a long time coming and involved a not inconsiderable amount of stress LOL!

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Jamie January 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm

You are so funny! And parboiling the eggs for 3 minutes – when only a couple more minutes gives the results you want – before sous-viding (a verb?) seems a bit crazy. But I love watching you experiment! And I do love my eggs with that honey/mayonnaise/lemon curd consistency and the egg on your salad looks perfect! And ooh have to make this great salad! What a delicious meal and yeah those warm and cold, spicy and mild are great together!

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Jeanne January 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm

LOL – no, I’ve never seen the consistency of yolk that you can achieve in a sous vide machine being achieved with boiling. The problem is that by the time the heat penetrates to the centre of the yolk, the outer bit of the yolk is TOO cooked. Sous vide eggs are just different. The salad would be equally sublime with soft-boiled or poached eggs… you’d love it!

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Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen January 24, 2013 at 3:31 am

Oh my goodness you have patience, a 60 minute egg! The perfect cooked egg is a beautiful thing worth chasing though.

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M.G. Frederic January 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

This looks awesome, something I know that I would really love. I would even throw in some fresh hericot verts too :)…yum

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Jeanne January 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Oooh – baby haricots verts! now that is an inspired addition, I think I may just take you on on that suggestion!

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Olga August 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Wow! Eggs are one of my perfect foods and breakfast is an excuse to eat them :) Thanks!

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