I love poached eggs, not only for eggs Benedict but as an addition to salads, vegetables, and virtually any savory dish that you want to add a touch of richness too.
Recently I was asked to make a side dish for a dinner party and I decided to do some perfectly grilled asparagus topped with a poached egg that could be cut open to reveal the runny yolk just before serving.
Being addicted to finding new ways to amp up the flavor of the grill, however, I decided to add smoke directly to the egg, something that was originally inspired by watching Chef David Chang add smoke flavor to cooked eggs by placing them in smoked water during an episode of PBS's "The Mind of a Chef."
But unlike Chef Chang, I wanted to actually flavor the egg in their raw state so bearing in mind that egg shells are quite porous, I began the process by creating smoked water then placing the eggs in the smoked water and refrigerating for a number of days until they had taken on enough smoky flavor to stand up to the poaching process. While it is possible to cold smoke the actual eggs, the water method proved to be much simpler and safer as the raw eggs remain in a refrigerated state until ready to poach.
For the cold smoking process, I have been using something called the A-MAZE-N smoker tube (basically a perforated tube in which wood pellets slowly smolder) a lot recently for cold smoking, but a few pre-heated Kingsford charcoal briquets topped with wood chips works just as well (though you will have to replace the chips more often).
The result? An unexpected touch of smokiness from the egg that took the dish to a whole new level of grilled flavor!
SMOKED POACHED EGG WITH GRILLED ASPARAGUS
2 cold smoked eggs (instructions follow)
8oz. pencil asparagus, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tsp. for drizzling
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Coarse sea salt
Prepare grill for medium-high heat cooking, approximately 425 degrees. Fill a small saucepan with water (approximately 2/3 full) and place on the grill. As the water comes to a simmer, toss the asparagus with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Place the asparagus either directly on the main grill grate or in a vegetable grilling basket and grill for 4-5 minutes until lightly charred. Remove the asparagus from the grill and set aside until ready to serve. Crack each egg into a small bowl. Using a spoon, stir the water in the saucepan in a circular motion to create a whirlpool then gently slide one egg into the water. Allow the egg to poach for 3 minutes until the whites are firm. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to drain while you poach the second egg.
To serve, drizzle balsamic vinegar on a platter, top with grilled asparagus, poached eggs, a drizzle of olive oil and coarse sea salt. Make a small incision in each poached egg to allow the yolks to slowly run out and serve immediately.
COLD SMOKED EGGS
6 cups water
Prepare A-MAZE-N smoker tube according to instructions*, placing it on one side of your grill's charcoal grate. Replace the main cooking grate on the grill. Add water to a shallow baking pan or casserole dish and place on the main grill grate.
Cover the grill and allow the water to cold smoke for 2-3 hours, stirring periodically until it has taken on a smoky aroma and has changed color just slightly.
Remove the smoked water from the grill and pour into a container. Place the container in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for at least 30 minutes before adding fresh eggs to the liquid and sealing. Place the sealed container back in the fridge for at least 2 days and up to 4 days before using the smoked eggs in place of traditional raw eggs.
*Alternatively you can preheat 2-3 charcoal briquets, place them on one end of the charcoal grate, and add wood chips and additional briquets as needed