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The Basted Egg: A Foolproof Play On The Poach

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A plate of huevos rancheros topped with a basted egg.

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: We learn a unusual technique for cooking eggs to give you a silky, yolky sauce for huevos racheros.

The Chef

I grew up in a small mining town in the West, Carlsbad, N.M. My dad had a grocery store and my mother, June Cozby, was a very good cook with a soft spot for overripe fruit and very dark red beef. She taught me to make foolproof eggs — tender and soft, kind of a cross between poached and over easy. These are the kind of eggs that go on top of something — maybe a plate of asparagus, or a stack of red chile enchiladas, or a salad. Because the yolks are soft, they become like a sauce, especially delicious on enchiladas.

The Hard Way

Fancy restaurants often include a lightly poached duck egg in an elegant salad. Poaching involves boiling water, swirling an egg around in it so the white will stay neatly curled around the yolk and practicing it a lot so you recognize the moment it is perfectly done. It's not exactly hard, but it is easy to get it wrong. Not so with June's method for basted eggs.

The Hack

Start with a small skillet with a glass lid. Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and pour in a little oil (canola is good). As the oil warms, wipe it around the skillet. Crack the egg in the skillet, fill half an eggshell with water and add that and then pop on the lid.

Here is the hardest part. You have to stand over the egg and watch it cook. It doesn't take long but if you miss the moment you don't get a soft yolk. So you watch the egg through the steamy, blurry glass lid. Suddenly you will notice that the yolk is changing color around the edges. As you watch, the color will creep up to cover the yolk and when the yolk is almost pink, you take it out of the skillet and serve.

That's a plain, basted egg. You can eat it as is, on toast, slide it over warmed up leftovers, it will improve almost anything.

Here's another version: Toast a corn tortilla in a dry skillet until it gets a few brown spots on each side. Oil the skillet as above. Put the tortilla in the bottom and crack the egg on the tortilla. Add half an eggshell of tomato salsa, and put the lid on the skillet and hover over it until the yolk turns pink. Scoop the tortilla and egg on to a plate, add some grated cheese and serve.

(If you want to serve a family of four you need a bigger skillet with a glass lid, one tortilla per egg and one half eggshell of salsa per egg. Don't even think about a flour tortilla.)

The Plate

I serve huevos rancheros with some avocado slices, a sprig of cilantro and a few tortilla chips, extra salsa to pass. You can drink whatever you like but in Carlsbad N.M., you'd drink hot coffee.

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