Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eggs Benedict

When we were planning a trip to California earlier this year, my Dad suggested that we go to a particular restaurant and get eggs Benedict. "I don't like eggs Benedict," I replied. So when my crappy omelette arrived, I tried my brother's eggs Benedict, and of course, I loved it. Isn't it funny how parents are usually right?

So I've decided that I like eggs Benedict, and on the morning this challenge was announced, I had actually been lying in bed craving them.'But I would never want to make them,' I thought. So I was utterly unsurprised when I got out of bed, opened the webpage announcing the challenge, and saw that it was eggs Benedict.

Because my Dad (obviously) likes eggs Benedict, I got over my multiple misgivings and made this dish for him, at which point I decided that I'll likely never make it again. I've made a lot of complicated things in my time, and I've got to say that this eggs Benedict was one of the most difficult things I've made in a while. Its multiple components had me frazzled, as they all require good technique and good timing.

That's exactly why I do the Daring Cooks, though--to force me to make things that intimidate me. And two of the most intimidating aspects of this challenge are skills that every cook should be at least a little bit familiar with--poaching eggs and making a Mother sauce (in this case, Hollandaise). And who knows, maybe I'll make this again some day and find that it's a lot easier the second time around, as is often the case in cooking.

If you would like to make this classic brunch item at home, I can suggest two things that can make eggs Benedict more approachable: The eggs can be poached up to a day ahead of time and kept in a cold water bath. When you're ready to use them, throw them into some gently simmering water until they're just warmed through. Also, the Hollandaise can be made a little bit ahead of time and kept warm. I filled a travel mug with boiling water, let it sit for a few minutes, dumped out the water, and poured in the Hollandaise. It stayed warm that way for half an hour, and it probably would have been okay for an hour.

The Daring Cooks had some other helpful tips:
  • Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible. Farm-fresh eggs will make for the best poached eggs. If you use old eggs, you'll have a harder time with the whites spreading out all over the place when you place the egg in the water.
  • Adding a bit of vinegar or acidic agent to your water will help stabilize the eggs and cook the whites faster, and keeping you water just below the boiling point (about 190 degrees) will help keep the fragile eggs from all the boiling bubble action rupturing the eggs. Also make sure you salt the poaching water well.
  • The other main key to success is to crack your eggs into a small bowl first, taking care not to break the yolk. Then it becomes easy to gently slide the entire egg into the water for the poaching process. Some people also suggest swirling the poaching liquid into a vortex before sliding the egg in, in order to help keep the egg whites together. I've found it works fine whether or not you do this step.
  • A poached egg is done when the whites are fully cooked and the yolk has just started to solidify but is still tunny when you cut it open--about 3 minutes. It's okay to go a little longer depending on your desired firmness.
Eggs Benedict
Serves 4 
  • 8 eggs (size is your choice)
  • 4 English muffins
  • 8 slices of Canadian bacon (Or plain bacon if you prefer. I actually used pancetta, which I thought worked perfectly.)
  • Chives, for garnish (Optional)
  • Splash of vinegar (for poaching)
For the Hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. water
  • ¼ tsp. sugar
  • 12 Tbl. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces 
  • ½ tsp.kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Fill a saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside. In a metal mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using). Taste and add more salt, lemon juice, or cayenne as needed. Keep the Hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.

Add enough water to your pan so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure there's space between them. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.

While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the bacon and toast your English muffins. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with Hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy!


Anonymous said...

What lovely eggs benedict! Yes that's one of my favorite things about being in Daring Cooks as well, is getting to cook a bit out of my comfort zone - glad it was such a success for you!

Mary said...

Eggs benedict are a bit of a pain to make, with all the components, which is why I usually leave them to restaurants. It was my second time making them, for this challenge and I did find they came together more quickly than the first time around, if that's any consolation. Yours look fantastic, by the way.

Renata said...

Yes, Eggs Benedict is addicting, isn't it? You did a great job on yours!

FabFrugalFood said...

I, too, have ordered many a crappy omlette and wished I had ordered eggs bene - Great job on the challenge!


Leah said...

thanks, everyone!