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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict on Foodista
Every now and then -- a couple of times a year maybe, say New Year's Day and Easter morning -- I'll make Eggs Benedict, my favorite breakfast treat. It takes a little bit of preparation, but when it turns out right the fresh homemade dish makes even the best restaurant-buffet version seem mundane by comparison.

Fresh, high-quality ingredients are important -- good muffins, fresh eggs and unsalted butter, and the best Canadian bacon you can find (or ham, if you prefer). For today's meal I used Neuske's applewood-smoked Canadian bacon purchased at Grapevine Cottage in Zionsville (it can also be ordered online directly from the source).

Instead of making my own Hollandaise sauce this time, I picked up a small container made in France by Delouis fils, also from Grapevine Cottage. It's delicious (and easy!), but I usually prefer to make my own, using the following recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Hollandaise Sauce
yields one cup

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 lb. unsalted butter, melted
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Use a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over hot, but not simmering, water. Put the egg yolks in the boiler top, and beat with a wire whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and gradually whisk in the melted butter, pouring in a thin stream. Slowly stir in 2 tablespoons hot water, the cayenne, and salt. Continue to mix for 1 minute. The sauce should be thickened. Serve immediately, or hold over warm water for an hour or two, but don't try to keep it too long without refrigerating.

Poaching eggs
I don't own an egg poacher, so the best method I've found is to put the eggs into little plastic wrap bags and drop them into boiling water, as amusingly detailed here. I smear a little butter on the plastic wrap before I put the egg in so it doesn't stick after it's cooked, and use a twistie-tie to easily close and open the bag. This method also makes it possible to season the egg before cooking, if you wish.

After you've made the sauce and put the eggs in their little bags, you're ready to start. After the water for the eggs comes to a boil, everything should come together in five minutes.

Eggs Benedict
serves two

4 eggs
2 English muffins, split
Canadian bacon or ham, enough to cover each muffin slice
1 cup Hollandaise sauce, warm
butter for muffins

Drop prepared egg bags in pot of boiling water. Cover pot, turn off heat and let eggs sit in hot water for 4 minutes.

While the eggs are cooking, sauté Canadian bacon on low heat in butter or bacon grease. The Canadian bacon or ham is already cooked, so the object here is to warm it to serving temperature without cooking it any more, which makes it tough and dry. When meat is sufficiently warm, turn off burner.

Toast and butter muffin slices, and top each with a layer of Canadian bacon.

After the eggs have cooked, unwrap them and place them on a prep plate. Using a spoon and your fingers, place eggs on top of Canadian bacon, then top with Hollandaise Sauce. Serve immediately.

Whether accompanied by coffee, sparkling wine, freshly-squeezed orange juice (or all three!), there are few better ways, in my mind, to start the day.

Possibly of interest to wine drinkers is that legend has it that Eggs Benedict was invented as a hangover treatment by Lemuel Benedict, a New York stockbroker, in 1894. As it happens, the New York Times ran a story about the dish today; if you're up for a little food history, go read it (login required).

And if you're just waiting for an excuse to treat yourself, here's one: April 16 is National Eggs Benedict Day.
M. Zane Grey, 8:00 PM