Ever since Chris and I went to California to visit Danny and Tiffany in the summer of 2005, I have been ordering my eggs poached (in a cup!) when we go out to breakfast. This is because Danny let me have a bite of his Eggs Benedict one morning and explained that poached eggs were just like over easy eggs but without the butter used to fry them. Until this summer, when Danny came to visit us in NY, I had never attempted to make poached eggs at home. There was an episode of Good Eats on our dvr in which Alton Brown makes everything from poached eggs to poached fish and there are explicit instructions in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So one morning, I jumped in with both feet and made some for Danny and myself. They came out great. Here I have two different breakfast choices that I've made recently. The first was made on 8.28.08 and the second was made on 8.31.08.
The trick is to not boil the water. I use a 10 inch sauté pan and heat it over medium high flame until the bottom is covered in little bubbles. Like this:
Both Alton and Julia talked on the use of vinegar if your eggs are not super fresh as a means of holding the whites together. In the first experiment, (which are all of the pictures in the pan) I did use vinegar to see how well this theory works. Another choice would be to crack the egg into a ladle held in the hot water and dipping it a bit to allow some water to come in. Once the eggs has set a little bit you can slip it out into the pan. I prefer to crack the eggs right into the pan, but it must be done slowly and with full attention.
I usually use my slotted spoon to flip the eggs over once in the water. I have no idea if this does anything or not to effect cooking, but it makes sure that they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once the eggs are cooked (which only takes about 2-3 minutes) you can lift them out with your slotted spoon, wait a few seconds for them to drain and then plate. If you used vinegar, you want to rinse the eggs before serving to get off the vinegar. Usually what I do is set everything up first. I take out the toaster, put the bread in (but I don't turn it on yet), if there is any meat to be cooked or anything like that I do that first while the water is heating up. Once I am ready to cook the eggs, I put the toast on, crack the eggs into the water, stand there and watch them, flip them once and then take them out. By then the toast has popped, I grab it, throw it on the plate and top it with the eggs. If I have other ingredients to construct on top of the toast, I put the eggs into a bowl with enough room so that they aren't on top of each other.
The first plate is a buttered English muffin with poached eggs on top and sprinkled with cracked pepper. The eggs did hold together very nicely with the addition of the vinegar, however, I either didn't rinse them enough or I just didn't like the taste of the whites because of the vinegar.
The second plate is an Arnold Sandwich Thin (I really love those) topped with a slice of swiss cheese, ham that was heated for about 30 seconds in a pan, poached eggs with cracked pepper and a side of Potatoes O'Brien. You can find Potatoes O'Brien in the frozen french fry section of the supermarket. It is basically home fries with onions and peppers. I add a little black pepper and thyme to mine for some flavor. This is the batch that I didn't use the vinegar with and the eggs were definately more tasty, although they were smaller.