April 04, 2008

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict has consistently been one of my favorite brunch options. For a hearty mid-morning meal, especially when said mid-morning arrives after an ill-spent liquid night, there are few things that are better. Having made many variations of the basic recipe, I consider myself to be a bit of an Eggs Benedict connoisseur. So when Rearset's (much) better half requested my recipe, I was only too happy to pontificate.

There are conflicting histories as to the origins Eggs Benedict - one version, according to the December 19, 1942 issue of The New Yorker, involves the Waldorf hotel in New York, a Wall Street type called Lemuel Benedict trying to cure a hangover and ordering "buttered toast, crisp bacon, 2 poached eggs, & a hooker of hollandaise."

On the other hand, Elizabeth David in her classic 1958 book French Provincial Cooking says that the origins can be traced to a French dish called œufs bénédictine. But then the French believe that all great dishes originated in France so take this as you will.

Whether it was an irate New York broker or a French farmer, I am just glad that someone invented it. On to the recipe, or rather my version of it. This makes one serving.

You will need:
  • Two eggs - at room temperature! Give up the nasty habit of cooking eggs straight out of the fridge!
  • An English muffin, split into half.
  • The traditional recipe calls for Canadian bacon or ham, but I prefer Pancetta. Use as much as you like, but at least enough to cover the muffin halves.
  • A few leafs of Spinach (why leave the Florentine out of the fun?!)
  • A few tomato slices
  • White wine vinegar
  • Hollandaise sauce*
  • Parsley and/ or chives to garnish

Here's how you make it:
In a wide, deep sauce pan bring to a fast rolling boil enough water to completely submerge the eggs. Think like you're cooking pasta - there should be enough water for the eggs to swim around.

Butter the muffin halves and place on a plate - they will form the base of the dish. Render the Pancetta in a medium-low pan till it is heated through and beginning to crisp around the edges. Place on top of the muffins.

Next, the tomato slices, which go atop the Pancetta. At this point hit it with some coarsely ground black pepper. Next up, the spinach.

Blanch the spinach for about 30-seconds to a minute in the water that you already have boiling for the eggs. Remove and 'shock' the leafs in an ice bath. This stops the cooking immediately and keeps the spinach nice and green. Put the spinach on top of the tomato.

Finally, the eggs! Add about 3-4 tbsp of the vinegar to the water. The acid helps the egg to coagulate quickly into a pretty ball instead of turning it into egg-drop soup! When you're ready to add the eggs to the water, turn it down to a simmer (you don't want the egg bouncing around in there), break the eggs into a bowl and then gently slide into the hot water. Depending on how runny you like your yolks, give it 3-6 minutes. Fish out the eggs with a slotted or mesh spoon and set on top of the spinach.

Spoon on the hollandaise sauce, hit it with some parsley and/or chives and serve.

One quick note - As hard as it to imagine, there is a method to the sequence of piling the muffin - put the tomato on top of the muffin and you will have soggy bread. Put the wet eggs on top of the wet tomato and it will slide off.

*Hollandaise Sauce
Beat 3 egg yolks in a double boiler over barely simmering water. Make sure that the water does NOT touch the bottom of the bowl that the yolks are in. Do NOT let the water boil or it will scramble the yolks. When the yolks have thickened add a tablespoon of lemon juice and beat again till the mixture has doubled in volume. Now slowly(!) add half a cup of melted unsalted butter while continuously beating the yolks. When all the butter has been absorbed, fold in a dash of cayenne pepper and beat again till the sauce becomes glossy and smooth. You can hold the sauce over warm water or in a thermos for about an hour but ideally, it should be served immediately.


Anonymous said...

I love this recipe!!! But I have questions: can i use ordinary vinegar instead in place of white wine 2) can i use powder to make the hollaindaise sauce?

Kautilya said...

The answer to your first question is, yes - you can use any vinegar you like. Or lemon juice for that matter. The slight acidity in the water just helps the eggs coagulate better. I just like white vinegar because it gives a little tinge of flavor to the eggs.

As to your second question, I hate to break this to you but while that powder is many things - chemistry experiment comes to mind - it ain't food.