|Eggs can be poached in their shells, either quickly (Les oeufs mollet) or very slowly, in the Japanese method known as onsen tomago. I have made birds nests of shredded potatoes (there are nested baskets used to accomplish this, called “nids”) and then served the eggs mollet in the nests, with Hollandaise sauce - an elaborate, but stunning, brunch dish. Also, shell-poaching is a great way of ensuring a symmetrical poached result, as you’ll see in the comments below. My references for this piece were Julia Child for the first method, and a rising star chef in New York City named David Chang, for the Japanese method.|
The French Method:
This works particularly well if you have eggs that will be difficult to poach because of their age (the white relaxes and trails off in the poaching liquid; the yolk does not remain centered).
Pierce the large end of the egg with an egg pricker (or pin) and lower each egg gently into salted boiling water (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt per quart of water). When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat and begin timing the simmering eggs – allow 6 minutes for large or extra-large eggs. The whites will be set, the centers runny. Peel the eggs and enjoy like any poached egg.
COOK’S NOTE: If you know that the eggs are extremely fresh – and will therefore be very difficult to peel – scrub them rapidly in warm water to remove any spray that may have been sprayed on them to retard staling, then leave them overnight on the kitchen counter before poaching. If the weather is very warm, leave the eggs, uncovered, in the refrigerator for a day or two, instead of at room temperature.
The Japanese Method:
Place a rack in a pot or a deep baking pan. Fill the pot with hot water, and place it on the stovetop over the lowest possible heat. Bring the water temperature to 140-145 degrees (check with a thermometer) and add the eggs. Make sure that the eggs lie on the rack, and do not touch the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and maintain the low temperatue – checking frequently.
After 40 minutes, test an egg by removing it and cracking it open. If the white is set, the egg is done – if not, continue cooking the remaining eggs for another 5 minutes and test again.
Poached eggs may now be used immediately, or refrigerated for at least one day in their shells OR peeled and stored covered with water in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature, or reheat in hot water for a minute or so before serving.