This morning, I wandered down to the lobby of my hotel in search of a hot breakfast, and when I requested poached eggs, the lovely gentleman behind the stove suggested I have them “basted.” I have never heard of this in my life, so of course I said yes, and then hovered by the kitchen to watch the entire process (apologies for my lame iPhone photo; just trust me that basted eggs look pretty much like…eggs).
Basted eggs are more or less a hybrid between sunny-side-up eggs and poached eggs…sort of steamy-fried, if you will. Sound gross? They’re totally not. All you do is crack the eggs into a lightly buttered frying pan, salt and pepper them if desired, and add a little water to the pan (any liquid works, really – even chicken broth – and the chef at my hotel just used 3 or 4 ice cubes, just because there happened to be an ice cube-filled bowl sitting next to him). Cover and cook on low heat until the tops of the eggs turn white, or until they’re cooked through to your liking. What’s happening is that the heat is being reflected downward as well as upward from the pan, resulting in a more evenly cooked egg (no runny whites).
P.S. I just did a little puttering about on Google, and discovered this choice comment on Answerbag: ”Only a wimp would cover with a lid to steam down. A proper basted egg will have that fat ladled over it six to ten times to get both the flavor and cook the top. If you do not use bacon fat top and bottom, it is not basted.” So apparently an alternative way to baste an egg is to create the cooking-from-above effect by spooning a little bacon grease (whatever kind of fat you’re cooking with) over the top of the egg as well.
Like I said: Huh!