I’m not alone when I say eggs benedict are my favorite brunch food. IMO it’s a perfect dish. It’s creamy, savory, crunchy, and flexible. There are tons of variations since it’s pretty much a fancy breakfast sandwich, so I never get bored of it.
Week 6 of my cooking class, the last of my Level One Techniques course we discussed sauces. The five French mother sauces and the daughter sauces you can derive from them. Mayonnaise, Hollandaise (the egg based sauces), Espagnole (brown roux + brown stock), Bechamel (roux + cream), and Veloute (roux + white stock) (flour/starch based sauces).
Espagnole and Veloute are pretty much gravy. Espagnole is traditionally made with brown stock and brown roux. The trick to getting these sauces to emulsify is to add hot stock to hot roux.
What IS roux? It’s basically a thickener. It’s equal parts flour and fat that are combined. More detailed info can be found here.
Egg based sauces are trickier. Adding fat to the eggs (either butter or oil) has to be very gradual, teaspoon by teaspoon. When making hollandaise, an additional factor is added- heat, which is why the sauce is so damn hard to make.
For my last cooking class I immediately picked Eggs Benedict. It’s a hard recipe, plus it’s one of my favorite foods, so I was drawn to it from the moment I saw it in the recipe packet. It was definitely tricky. And took quite a bit of time. Hollandaise is so temperamental that even once you make it you can’t store it. It’ll separate. My instructor recommended keeping it in a thermos for maybe about an hour before it’ll break.
When making the hollandaise, initially I kept it on the stove for too long and the eggs scrambled. It’s important to keep it on the lowest heat possible and take it off the stove every 10-15 seconds while mixing non-stop.
Not only did this recipe require me to make hollandaise (for the first time) it also had me poach 12+ eggs (also for the first time). This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it’d be. The most important part of poaching eggs doesn’t lie with technique i think. It lies with the freshness of the eggs. Eggs bought at the supermarket are always labeled with the day they were retrieved. The date is in the format of the day of the year, (i.e 345, 016, etc.) the higher the number, the fresher the eggs.
That being said, there are certain techniques that are better for poaching eggs. The whirlpool method is ok. But it’s finicky and you can only poach one egg at a time. Not ideal. The method I used (quite successfully) was fill a skillet with water (almost to the top), boil it, then reduce to a simmer so the water is barely moving. Then add salt and a tbsp of vinegar. Crack your eggs into a ramekin or other container, and slowly tilt them into the water. I poached four eggs at a time. Make sure the water covers the eggs- if it doesn’t flip them over after 2 min or so. They should cook in about 5 minutes.
I've also heard the strainer method works pretty well for poaching.
Poached eggs can even be stored overnight which is awesome. Just keep them in a bowl full of cold water and pop them in a fridge. They can keep for about 12 hours or so and can be rewarmed in some simmering water for a few minutes.
The recipe I followed was for Asparagus eggs benedict. However, this recipe is easily modified.
Adapted from the Cambridge culinary school eggs benedict recipe
- 6 English muffins
- 6 pieces of Canadian bacon
- ½ pound of asparagus
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- Olive oil
- 6 eggs (I recommend using more in case you mess some up)
- Bowl full of cold water (optional, if making in advance)
- 1 tbsp of cider vinegar
- ¼ cup of white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup of dry white wine
- 1 tbsp of fresh minced tarragon
- 8 oz melted unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp of fresh tarragon (mixed in after sauce is complete)
- 3 egg yolks
- Salt to taste
- Bring a skillet (preferably with higher walls) full of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer so the water is barely moving.
- Add in a tbsp of white wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.
- Crack eggs into a ramekin or a cup. Tilt gently and slowly into the skillet. You can do four eggs at a time. Make sure water is fully covering the egg
- Let eggs sit in skillet for 5 minutes. Then with a slotted spoon scoop them up gently onto bread/muffin (whatever you’re using) if serving immediately. If not, scoop them into a large bowl filled with ice water (can be stored overnight, for about 12 hours and reheated in warm water, not boiling) later.
- Wash the asparagus and then snap off the ends (with your hands. Asparagus naturally snaps at the juncture between the tough and tender parts).
- You can either blanch this or grill it or roast it. Whatever floats your boat. I blanched them in the skillet where I poached the eggs. I dropped them in for a minute and a half and then placed them into a bowl full of cold water.
- Coat asparagus with about a teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Over medium heat add two tbsp of unsalted butter to pan
- Once butter stops frothing add in Canadian bacon
- Cook until it turns a nice brown color
- Cut English muffins in half
- Add butter to the insides of the English muffins (just eye it)
- Toast in oven on wire rack on top of cookie sheet/pan at 350. Take out once nice and golden, check after 5 minutes
- Melt 8 oz of butter and let cool slightly
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg white (this is easier to do if the egg is cold)
- In a small sauce pan (make sure it’s small. Less surface area means lesser chance of the hollandaise curdling), combine white wine vinegar, dry white wine and tarragon. Let reduce over medium heat until almost gone (about two tbsp. should be left)
- Strain mixture through sieve and let cool. Once cool, add the mixture back to pot and add in the egg yolks. Keep temp on stove at the lowest heat possible.
- Teaspoon at a time add melted butter to the vinegar/egg mixture. Don’t stop whisking. Keep over stove for about 10-15 seconds at a time, then take off for a little to make sure eggs don’t cook. Once halfway through the butter, start adding more teaspoons (so 2 teaspoons at a time, then three, then four, up to 2 tbsp) until the butter is gone.
- Add in salt (to taste) and mix in the 2 tbsp of tarragon
- Place in a thermos if not serving immediately for up to one hour.
Note: Have cold water/ice cubes close by. If the eggs in the mixture start to cook you can add the ice cubes to halt the process and transfer the good part of the mixture to another sauce pan