Oh yes, it exists. It is not just some unattainable, mythical story which great chefs use to inspire their disciples, it is real. It is hard to achieve, yet worth the many dozens of ruined eggs that are either too hard or too soft. My whole life, I have never really liked eggs. They were always goopy, runny, or way too hard . . . things that should be birthing little chickens rather than choked down with a cup of bad coffee (I used to have an incubator for chicks when I was younger, so I might be a bit biased in this regard). Fried eggs - eck - why would you want to eat an unhealthy, weird texture protein instead of say, a nice piece of fruit for breakfast.
But lo, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a recipe that called for a poached egg on asparagus. Before that, the only poached egg I had been exposed to had either been in little metal cups, perched just above water, so they retained their shape. Or the new-fangled microwave ones. That's just weird. And plastic-y. Which makes them even weirder. This poached egg however, was cooked in water, and sat on some capicollo and asparagus. I served it, with a bit of trepidation (dang, it is hard to pull that egg out of the water) to my boyfriend, and he bit into it with gusto. Watching him mow it down, I felt the urge to take a bite. And oh, oh my goodness, it was good. It was more than good, it was phenomenal. It was a little perfect piece of heaven, melting in my mouth, filling it with sunshine.
The only problem with a good poached egg is - it is ugly if done wrong. Dropped into water, the tendrils of egg white spread out until it looks like you are about to eat a form of squid instead of a basic food staple. There are a couple tricks that make a poached egg not only taste like a fallen piece of cloud, but also a few that make it look like one. And when you have achieved that moment, celebrate. This is the best egg that will ever enter your mouth.
Perfect Poached Egg
1 egg (you can do more, I just tend to do them one at a time)
1 tsp. vinegar (or lemon juice)
4 c. water (or enough to fill a shallow pot 3/4)
1. Heat water in shallow pot until boiling, reduce heat to a barely simmering level. Add the vinegar. Crack an egg into a cup (this allows for better pouring capacity into the pan than just cracking it directly in). Make a vortex in the middle of the water by swirling a spoon around the perimeter of the pot in a clockwise motion.
2. Drop egg into the middle of the pot, in the dip of the vortex. Immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot - do not disturb the eggs once they are in the water! Cook for about 3 minutes for medium-firm yolks. You can do more or less for preferred consistency of yolk. Remove from water with a slotted spoon, and hold over the pot briefly to let any water drain off.
Serve on a piece of buttered toast or pan-fried asparagus with capicollo or prosciutto.