In a few weeks I’m entering a cooking competition in which I will need to create 200 small portions. I’ve decided on a Lyonnaise Salad (the key ingredient of the competition is bacon), and the best part of that salad is the poached egg on top. But chicken eggs are way too big for the small sized dishes we’re supposed to be serving so I turned my attention to quail eggs.
It’s roughly a fifth the size of a chicken egg.
Since I need to cook 200 of them, I wanted to find a quick and easy way to do it. My first try was just soft-boiling them in shells. I boiled a pot of water, dropped in a quail egg, and pulled it out 1.5 minutes later. Following this tip from Wylie Dufresne, I put them in ice water for an hour before warming them back up and cracking them open. He says it will make them easier to peel. What a disaster. I mean the eggs were cooked perfectly but I spent about 5 minutes trying to get the shell off while the egg kept the pretty shape to no avail. I didn’t take pictures. It was ugly (but tasty!)
Next, with my fingers crossed, I tried Sous Vide. If it worked, it would by far be the easiest solution. All I had to do was throw a bunch of eggs in the Sous Vide Supreme, set the temp, and let ‘em hang out in ice water until I wanted to heat them up to serve them.
What temperature though? I want a runny yolk and a set white that wouldn’t freak people out. When I normally cook my chicken eggs I do 63.5° C for 60 minutes so I shortened the time and gave that a try. I also found a chart from Douglas Baldwin and the Ideas in Food people chimed into this thread suggesting 75°for 5 minutes or so, so I tried that too. My results:
I would have been happy serving any of those but look at my shells:
Still a disaster with most of the white left behind. Quail Egg shells are so annoying!
So yes, I could easily cook 200 eggs perfectly, but getting them out of the shell neatly was not going to happen. No Soft boiling, no Sous Vide… I have to cook these eggs outside of the shells.
I originally thought poaching a bunch of eggs was going to take forever, but Quail eggs take less then a minute to poach. And once poached, they’ll hold in ice water in the fridge for 24 hours easily, after which I can warm them up in a pan of water over a sterno at the event. I just need to make sure I keep the sterno water under 60°C (the temp at which the eggs might start to cook some more)
I started a pot of boiling water on the stove, added a splash of vinegar and cracked 3 quail eggs into 3 ramekins.
I swirled the water, carefully dropped in the eggs, and took them out with a slotted spoon about a minute later. No picture because I was working too fast at this point. They came out of the simmering water and directly into a bowl of ice water.
Into the fridge they went. I left them there for a few hours to kind of simulate cooking them the night before. Then I filled a pot with hot water (50°C), put some toast in the oven, and fished my eggs out of the ice water and into the pot to warm them up (I cut off the long stragglies with scissors).
They were warmed through in 5 minutes, so onto the toast they went.
Perfect! It’s going to take a while, but I think the standard poach of these quail eggs is the way to go, thanks to their impossible to peel shells.
Wish me luck in the bacon competition!