Today is international Eggs Benedict Day. Time to make my version, take pictures, and put them on the site. Make and eat at your own risk, they’re slightly addictive.
Generally speaking, Eggs Benedict have several components, each of which has its own challenges and rewards. There’s a base, usually always an English Muffin. So integral to the dish is this muffin that using anything else (a toast for example) seems unacceptable to true EB fans and must lead to a renaming of the dish. Not so, I say, after all there’s so much that can be done here and, at the risk of offending purists, we will.
Then there’s the protein. Canadian bacon or ham is used rather commonly, and we’ll only stray from this in the preparation department but leave the ingredient alone.
An egg, poached, is set atop the protein. Nothing to change here, only a quick reflection on poaching needed.
Lastly, the egg is covered in Sauce Hollandaise. Which, finally, gives me a chance to upset some more people and show off my no-fail perfect hollandaise recipe. Tradition be damned, this one tastes better and is easier to make.
On top of that we’ll sprinkle some bacon powder and chives for taste.
English muffins have all the qualities of a good base for this dish. They’re sturdy but fluffy, they toast easily without turning into a cracker, and they mop up egg better than most anything. Go for it, if you must. If you are in the market for some experimentation and enhancement, let me suggest an alternative: German potato pancakes. Some call them (wrongly) latkes, but in a nutshell they’re just grated potatoes and seasoning, mixed together.
- 2 medium sized potatoes for about four to five potato pancakes
- 1/2 onion, small dice
- 1/2 egg per two potatoes, beaten
- salt, pepper, oil
- nutmeg, grated freshly (optional)
For a fluffier product boil one of the potatoes and mash it, but this is not necessary for our potato pancake base. Grate the potatoes and place in ice-cold water for five minutes. Remove, dry, and combine well with onion and egg. Season with one teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, and (if you’d like) some nutmeg.
Form patties. I use a large ring mold to control size across the individual parts, but that’s optional too. Make them about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan (not “non stick spray”, that stuff apparently kills the nonstick coating – any chemists can explain why?), then place the patty and cook until the outside is nice and brown and the inside cooked through (about 4, 5 minutes).
Nothing to change, here. Buy a ham, slice into 1/4 inch slices, saute or steam to soften up some (I smoke mine), and use. I use the same size ring mold as for the potato base to punch out nice evenly sized discs.
There are as many techniques for poached eggs as there are cooks in this world. Since I am a little bit of a whack job when it comes to size and presentation and lazy to boot, here’s how I make mine.
Some people like to use the “vortex” or swirl method in which a vortex is formed in the center of the pan and the egg is dropped into it. Others prefer the “bath” where the egg is simply placed in the water. In my application for this dish, I use a ring mold 2 sizes smaller than the one used for ham and potato base and place the egg inside that.
Bring enough water in a shallow pan to a simmer to cover an egg dropped into it. Add a tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water. Vinegar expedites coagulation but, if too much is added, will turn the egg grey. Use fresh eggs for best results, the older an egg gets the more of the albumin in the egg white thins out, setting slower. Drop your egg into a ramekin and then pour into the ring mold. 3 minutes for soft-boiled is perfect. Move the ring mold around a little after 30 seconds or so, to allow the egg to rotate and set evenly.
Ahhh, hollandaise. Few other simple preparations strike as much fear into the hearts of cooks. Curdling, cooking too far, becoming watery, or rubbery, are just some of the fears. No need, this is very easy.
- Three egg yolks
- A cup of water set next to you with a measuring spoon on the side
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- a pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, chilled and small-cubed.
In a medium sauce pan bring an inch or so of water to a simmer. Let simmer until everything else is set up, then reduce heat to low.
Combine three egg yolks and a teaspoon of water (water is absolutely necessary, it is – after all – what we emulsify with) in a bowl and whisk until it gets lighter, about 2, 3 minutes. If your arm gets tired just stop, leave the whisk inside the mixture, and resume at leisure. Add a the sugar and whisk for another 30 to 45 seconds. Don’t add the sugar ahead of mixing the eggs, sugar is hygroscopic and will make it harder to emulsify the egg.
Now we need to add some warmth. Reduce the heat on the water to low, give it a second for the simmer to dissipate, then move the bowl on top of the pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice to the eggs. Whisk. Whisk. If your arm gets tired again move the bowl off the water, set away from the heat source, leave the whisk inside the egg, and relax. Move back at your own leisure. Whisk. Whisk. Whisk until the mixture has firmed up enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave “valleys” when you drag your whisk through it. This will take between three and five minutes, depending on breaks.
Remove from heat and slowly, one by one, add the butter. Whisk every small cube into the mixture before adding the next. If the butter refuses to dissolve move back on top of the (now warm, not hot) water, and whisk for a few seconds before moving back. If the mixture feels too stiff add another 1/2 teaspoon of water, gradually.
After all the butter is incorporated turn off the heat on your water, give it a few seconds to cool down some, then add the salt, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining lemon juice, move over the water bath, and whisk it in.
You’re done. That wasn’t hard, now, was it?
Bacon Powder and Chives
You can skip this, if you’d like. Combine bacon fat and tapioca maltodextrin in a 60:40 ratio by weight and blend in a blender until powdered. Pass through a fine mesh sieve or tamis, and set aside in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Freeze chives with liquid nitrogen or in a blast freezer (or buy freeze-dried ones, though this is less fragrant) and powder in a coffee mill or mortar. Combine with bacon powder and sprinkle over finished dish.