Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eggs Benedict

Easy! Super fast! Totally fool-proof! Yeah, sorry, not this Eggs Benedict recipe. This one requires effort, but that first taste of the sauce, well before the rest is ready to assemble, will prove that it is totally worth it.

Eggs Benedict is all about the hollandaise, and the only real risk for failure there is allowing it to get too hot. A double boiler is needed to regulate the temperature, but I simply use a metal bowl that fits snuggly atop a slightly smaller saucepan to simmer the water. The water acts as a thermal break so that the sauce won't curdle.

Before I get called out by the culinary elite, I must be forthcoming and admit that the recipe as written here is not hollandaise, but a mousseline. A real hollandaise would not contain dairy beyond the butter, but after making it to the exacting French standards, I found it a bit too rich for my taste. The addition of sour cream allowed me to cut the butter needed in half, but the sauce is every bit as rich and luxurious as expected, or better.
The Egg
The second most important element is the slightly intimidating poached egg. The two secrets to poaching eggs are freshness and vinegar. A fresh egg has a stronger albumin bond and the white will hold together better when dropped into the hot swirling water. A tablespoon of vinegar in the water reacts to the egg white proteins in some mysterious manner that further forces them to stick together and not float off into the pan. You won't get a perfectly round egg with this method, but it will be absolutely delicious, and no, there is no hint of residual vinegar flavor. The best possible eggs should be used, farm raised, organic, free range chicken eggs are superior in every way to traditional store bought; seek them out if you are able.

To Finish

Keeping everything hot requires a bit of multitasking but following the steps in the order written here ensures everything stays warm until plated. This recipe makes close to 3 cups of hollandaise, which is easily enough for 8 servings, 2 eggs each, which is what I need for my large family. I have kids help toast and butter muffins, another child heats the ham in the skillet, while I pull together the hollandaise and poach the eggs. Cooking for four is certainly far less of a production than at my house, and only half this hollandaise recipe would be needed, but the technique is exactly the same.

Don't miss the notes below about reheating any left over sauce, to microwave would be tragic.

Step 1:  Sauce
9 egg yolks, whisked

1/3 cup lemon juice (approximately 2 lemons)
2/3 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups butter, melted
4 Tablespoons all-natural sour cream (Daisy)

  1. Prepare the double boiler. Place water in the pan and allow it to come to simmer. Check to see that the bowl fits snuggly against the sides of the pan but does not touch the water. Do not leave the bowl sit atop the pan, the bowl should be room temperature. 
  2. In the room temperature bowl of the double boiler, whisk egg yolks until very smooth. 
  3. Combine the 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and desired black pepper in a glass measuring cup and pour in the 2/3 cup boiling water.
  4. While whisking continuously, carefully pour the hot water mixture into the egg yolks in a thin stream, the first third cup of hot water is extremely important to add slowly so as not to curdle the eggs. Continue adding the water in a slow stream, whisking thoroughly.
  5. Place the bowl on the prepared pan of simmering water and whisk until the yolks begin to thicken and lighten in color. 
  6. Slowly add the butter in a slow even stream, whisking to incorporate each addition until the sauce emulsifies and no remaining butter is visible. The sauce should be very thick at this point. 
  7. Whisk in the sour cream, one tablespoon at a time until incorporated. 
  8. Taste for salt and pepper.
  9. If the sauce seems too thick, a teaspoon of water can be added, one at a time, until the desired thickness.
  10. Reduce heat to low and keep sauce warm until ready to use. Do not cover, whisk occasionally to keep the sauce from forming a skin and/or separating.  

Step 2:  Ham
The ham definitely takes a supporting role, but that doesn't mean it should be inferior quality. Use the ham you prefer; thin or thick sliced, enough for each English muffin.
  1. Warm the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Spray a large nonstick skillet with Pam cooking spray. (The spray is actually for the eggs, but it is better to spray the pan while it is clean.)
  3. Heat the skillet and quickly fry the ham to heat it through.
  4. Remove ham to plate and place in warm oven. 
Fill the skillet with water about 2/3 full and return to stove over high heat. Stir the hollandaise sauce.

Step 3:  English Muffin
The English muffins need to be toasted. There is plenty of butter in the sauce, so buttering them or not is personal preference (I butter.) This is a job that nearly any age can help with, so I often enlist the kids to help toast the muffins. They can be popped into the oven to keep warm, but not too long as they can get hard and dried out.

Prepare the muffins with a piece of ham on each during the few minutes it takes for the eggs to poach. Stir the hollandaise sauce.

Step 4:  Egg
Once the water in the skillet (set on high at the end of step 2) comes to a simmer, lower the heat just a bit to reduce the number of vapor bubbles. Ideally the water should be around 175-degrees Fahrenheit for poaching eggs. Water simmers at around 195-degrees so reducing heat just below simmer is close enough.
  1. Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 tsp salt to the almost simmering water. 
  2. Break eggs into individual ramekins to ensure that no shell is included and to make dropping them into the water without breaking the yolk a bit easier. 
  3. Swirl the water and carefully slide in the eggs.
  4. Cook for approximately 3 minutes. Remove eggs from water with slotted spoon, leaving behind the undesirable white threads that float in the water. 
  5. If the eggs seem particularly 'wet' they can be tipped onto a plate with paper towels and then back into the spoon to place on the muffins with ham. 
Stir the hollandaise one last time, ladle over the egg and serve immediately. Cayenne pepper can be added as garnish and a hit of heat if desired. 
Microwaving hollandaise will cause it to curdle, it does however reheat perfectly in a double boiler and is superb on steamed vegetables like asparagus, cauliflower, or broccoli. 
Recipe serves 8-10 (2 eggs, 2 muffins each)



  1. So farm eggs can't compare to store bought eggs?

  2. Ha! Someone actually reads this blog? I'll reword it to my intent, but so few people realize how different a real farm raised egg is in comparison to a store bought eggs. Even those at the store that say 'farm fresh' are usually anemic in color and the flavor is so lacking that it can barely be identified as an egg. If you are going to the trouble of making eggs benedict, search out the real thing, it's worth it.