Next up in our series on how to cook eggs, we have my favorite basic egg preparation: poaching. Poached eggs, to many people, belong firmly in the breakfast category with a slice of toast or nestled onto an english muffin and draped in hollandaise sauce; I reject this notion and most often eat poached for lunch or dinner, usually atop some leftover scraps of grains and roasted vegetables, or perhaps on a salad or leftover potato leek soup, and call it a meal. They are quick, easy, and versatile and can turn mundane leftovers into something new, so knowing how to properly execute them is important.
How do you poach an egg? Simply fill a small pot with water and turn the heat high enough to maintain just below a simmer. You want little bubbles to form on the bottom of the pan and have some of them rising to the top, but that’s it. While the water is heating, crack an egg into a small shallow bowl or a 1/3 cup measuring cup and set aside. Once the water is up to temperature, take a spoon and gently stir the water in a circle to form a small whirlpool in the center of the pot (nothing huge, just a little vortex). Remove the spoon and, working quickly, gently slide the egg from the measuring cup into the little vortex.
Once the egg is in the water, the motion of the swirling water will cause the egg white to wrap around the yolk, giving you a beautifully formed poached egg. The swirling will stop fairly quickly, and then all you do is wait for the egg to finish cooking (length of time will depend on how well you like your egg cooked) and then remove it from the water with a slotted spoon. Every once in a while, your egg may stick to the bottom of the pan, but you can gently slide a spatula under the egg to correct this. I like my yolks runny but thick, which usually takes three minutes or so of cooking time, but you may need to experiment with a few eggs before you find how you like yours.
Poached eggs are delicious with just a sprinkling of good salt and a touch of cracked black pepper, but try them on any leftover vegetables, grain, soups, or pasta to add some protein and complexity to your meal!