The perfect egg is a puzzle. Professional chefs, and even scientists, disagree on how to make the best eggs; home cooks simply have a tendency to overcook them. Bottom line: "It's all personal taste," says the great David Waltuck, James Beard award-winning chef-owner of élan, his highly anticipated new restaurant opening this summer in New York City. Waltuck has been making eggs all his life, even before he and his wife, Karen, brought fine dining downtown with their acclaimed restaurant Chanterelle, which closed for good in 2009. Understandably, he has deep knowledge of what works best. "Mastering the art of cooking an egg requires a little patience," Waltuck says. "It's difficult to do a lot at the same time, but with practice it becomes easier." Here, he teaches us how to make gorgeous eggs in six classic ways, and he offers one easy but fabulous recipe for shirred (baked) eggs with ham and tomato.
How to Poach Eggs
Get out a saucepan to hold water that's deep enough to float eggs, ideally 3 or 4 inches deep. Fill the pan with water and a dash of salt. Heat the water until it's just simmering. Just before you begin poaching the eggs, add a dash of vinegar (whichever you like) to the water. Crack your eggs, preferably into some heatproof vessel that you can dip into the water. You can buy a ring mold that keeps the egg nice and circular. But the real man's way of doing it, says Waltuck, is dropping the egg into the simmering water, then with a fork swirling the water in a circular motion to make sure the egg white surrounds the yolk. Cook for 3–4 minutes. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Then pop it onto an English muffin, buttered or not. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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