Cold Poached Eggs

I have read a LOT of egg recipes. So when I come across something that makes me raise my eyebrows and say “ahhhh” it’s a thrill.

In this case, I was going through an old cookbook (new to me, but I collect these things). It’s a loeggs in a thousand waysng out-of-print (1917) book entitled Eggs in a thousand ways: A guide for the preparation of eggs for the table, by Adolphe Meyer (published by the Hotel Monthly Press) which I have sought for many years.  It is a small thin book, that  really isn’t all that impressive. was designed to fit into the breast pocket of a chef (before “pocketbooks” were common. An odd size.  Frankly, I was a little taken aback by this diminutive cookbook when it first arrived in my mailbox.

Don’t judge a book by it’s small, worn and dirty cover.

In the chapter entitled “Cold Eggs – Oeufs Froids” which begins with a recipe:

AlexandraCold poached eggs coated with white chaudfroid sauce, slice of truffle on each, coated with aspic jelly, border of caviare around eggs, serve on chopped jelly.

Which would need some translating (from old chef talk to modern cookbook) and it sounds rather extravagant with caviar and truffle. But, intriguing.  He offers different “cold eggs” but then there is what he calls “Capucine” (which is a recipe that also shows Auguste Escoffier’s cookbook.

(Escoffier lived from 1846 to 1935. So, I would guess that this wasn’t an uncommon, or unique recipe. Escoffier simply put to paper recipes of the great chefs that came before him).

The recipe has a cold poached egg coated with white chaudfroid sauce, decorated with rounds of peppers, served on a fish salad. 

Hmmm…cold poached egg on a salad.

Chaufroid (also spelled chau-froid, pronounced “show-FRWAH”) is a ridiculously complicated sauce that restaurants used to make by the vat.  It takes a vat to make them. It starts like all of the classic sauces, by oven roasting a huge pile of carcass bones and maybe some spices and vegetables, then simmering in water for a very long time. Then straining out the liquid, and reducing this sauce ridiculously, with the final touch, adding more gelatin (also made from huge amounts of carcass, hooves and hide) to make a very thick, smooth, rich reduction, that turns to a stiff jell when cooled. 

There were veal based chaufroid sauces, as well as versions using beef, or pork, or poultry. Which is where many recipe of today’s books go wrong. They assume that all chaufroid is poultry (chicken) based.  It’s not.

Chaudfroid sauce was chilled, and used to coat cold meats that were to be served cold, usually over a bed of greens (salad).  The recipes are wide and varied: fish, poultry, rabbit, venison, partridge, pheasant, duck and hard-boiled eggs.  

The gelatin in it (animal gelatin, so dissolved connective tissue, aka collagen) gives it a very smooth, thick mouth feel when warm, and with a chill, it becomes like that snack that we always have room for: Jell-O. (Since aspic has gone out of style…its the only thing I can think of to relate it to.)  The sauce will coat anything like frosting on a cake.

However, this is something that I am not going to be creating in my kitchen. (I found a very old recipe that called for the bones of two veal calves.  YIPES!) 

The modern version of chaufroid sauce pales by comparison.   The modern recipes call for adding plain gelatin to a bechamel or veloute sauce  (both are white sauces. Bechamel uses dairy, while veloute uses a light stock — poultry or veal).  The gelatin  adds thickness to any sauce, and a wiggly firmness to the sauce chilled. It lacks the intense flavor of the old recipes, but it’s easy.

(I am certain the classic French master chefs are rolling in their graves at this short cut.)

But, my point:

The idea of poaching an egg, chilling it, and then serving it with a chaufroid sauce is intriguing.  But, so is the idea of simply taking a chilled poached egg, and using it as a garnish for a salad.  The still runny yolk would be delicious with a vinegar based salad dressing.   A cold poached egg nestled in the pit-hollow of an avocado would be a delicious snack too.

I’ve heard of using cold poached eggs, to egg coat and deep fat fry…..

I guess it is time to start experimenting.

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