By Dave Frank
We’ve been doing a bunch of fun recipes lately — wait. Did someone say fun brunch recipes? How about learning to make Eggs Benedict?
Now I will tell you that this is a more involved process than some we’ve done. The most important part of Eggs Benedict is the Hollandaise sauce — creamy, buttery and rich. Chef Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico’s fame came up with the combination in the 1860s when a favorite customer, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, wanted something new. His recipe, which he dubbed Eggs a la Benedict, was published in his cookbook in 1894.
The dish is actually pretty simple in context — English muffins, Canadian bacon, poached eggs and Hollandaise (the thing that most folks think of a deal breaker). Let’s break it down and make it less daunting, shall we?
Hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice (proteins, fats and acids). An emulsion is mixture of two liquids that would not normally mix. By definition, an emulsion contains tiny particles of one liquid suspended in another. To give you an idea of examples, mayonnaise is an emulsion, as is vinaigrette.
Let’s get started.
4 ounces clarified butter (one full stick — melted and with the milk fat removed)
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ounce white wine
To start, we need to separate the yolk from the white of the egg. There are a few different techniques for this, so pick one that works for you. I wash my hands thoroughly and pour the whole egg into my hands, using my fingers to separate the white, shifting back and forth. Some people pour the egg back and forth between the eggshells — be careful not to get shell pieces in the yolk if you do this.
I save the whites for baking or egg white omelets later.
Put the yolks into a steel bowl (some say copper is the best, but I’ve never had a problem with stainless steel) add the lemon and white wine and gentle whisk. You can add a pinch of salt if you wish. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of boiling water as a double boiler and whisk constantly — we don’t want scrambled eggs! As soon as the eggs begin to thicken and get creamy, remove from the heat, and set on a coiled towel to provide a sturdy base. Now we will drizzle in the clarified butter in slowly, while whisking constantly.
Don’t go too fast; you don’t want to see any melted butter pooling on the surface.
Once all the butter is incorporated, cover with plastic wrap and place back on the water in the saucepan. Make sure the heat is off under the pan, or you will cook the sauce to death! The residual heal will keep the sauce from cooling and hardening.
If you have never poached an egg, there are a couple of different ways to do it. In a medium saucepan, add water to ¾ full, add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vinegar (Pro tip: very gently stir the water so it is slowly moving in a circle. This keeps the egg from spreading too much. The vinegar helps the white cook evenly.)
Soft poached eggs take about two to three minutes, or four to five for a harder cook. Ladle out with a slotted spoon. The other alternative (one I use shamelessly) is to use a poaching pan — specifically made to poach eggs — perfect every time!
The next step is to toast and butter the English muffins, top with a couple of slices of warmed Canadian bacon, top that with a couple of poached eggs and ladle the Hollandaise generously over the dish. You can garnish with chopped parsley or a dash of paprika for color.
The best part of Eggs Benedict is that you can do a bunch of variations to cater to your own tastes — use salmon instead of bacon, add steamed spinach, use crab meat — whatever tickles your fancy!
Put some crisp hash browns or some fruit on the plate, pour a cup of fresh brewed coffee and enjoy!
Until next time