Friday, January 14, 2011

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict
Ever since I was little, my family has always had Eggs Benedict for special occasions. It was also one of the foods I craved when I was pregnant. Ok- it is one of the foods I crave when I am not pregnant. Well-made eggs Benedict qualifies as a "perfect food". At least in my humble opinion.
I love eggs Benedict even though it is a balancing act in timing-- four separate parts of the dish that need to be made in a relatively short period of time.

Lots of tasks to juggle at once
I have alternated between using Bearnaise and Hollandaise sauce and Canadian bacon and ham. I have always used the Knorr sauce packages because making the sauces from scratch terrifies me. I always think that I am going to get the sauce wrong-- it won't come together and I will have eggs Benedict without a thick fattening French sauce which would be a small tragedy.

Today-- I am going to make the sauce and I am thinking positively so I am toasting the English muffins, poaching the eggs, and cooking the ham as if I am going to be successful!

Hollandaise sauce is a tricky sauce to make-- there are several versions-- one is made over a double boiler with care taken not to get the eggs to hot because the will scramble and not be that wonderful thick sauce. The second is made in a blender. The third is a method advocated by Alton Brown where you cook the egg yolks first, add cold butter to the mixture, and add the lemon juice last (he has it marked as easy). Ok there is a fourth- it is from a packet and is foolproof-- I know I could make it in my sleep.

As I write this I am tempted to forget this blog and just go out and buy the sauce packet. Both Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces scare me there are so many things that can go wrong-- oh well I am repeating myself. I have made homemade mayonnaise before (absolutely amazing stuff I might add) and it is an emulsion just like Bearnaise and Hollandaise so how hard could it be? Except that mayonnaise is never heated so you don't have to worry about your eggs scrambling or your sauce curdling or your emulsion failing to form.

The first question is whether I will make the one of the easy versions or the full-fledged-risky double boiler sauce. When I have a quandary like this, I usually turn to my Joy of Cooking, one of the first cookbooks I owned. Since my early days of cooking, my cookbook collection has grown. I read them like most people read novels, even though I hardly ever follow the recipes- except when I bake (and sometimes not even then). I am nervous enough with this sauce to follow the recipe (at least the first time I make it).

Ok I am not a coward so I am making the full fledged version-- without a safety net. I can do this.

Recipe (Adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Melt 10 tablespoons of butter (skim the foam off of the top and keep warm).

Place in the top of a double boiler or in a large stainless steel bowl:

3 Large Egg Yolks
1 1/2 Tbsp of Cold Water

Off of the stove, beat the yolks with a whisk until light and frothy. Place the top or bowl over (not in) barley simmering water and continue to whisk until the eggs are thickened, 3 to 5 minutes being careful not to let the eggs get too hot. (Note-- it took my mixture a lot longer than 5 minutes. I felt like I whisked forever).

Remove the pan or bowl from the hot water and continue to whisk to allow the mixture to cool slightly. You guessed it-- while whisking the mixture slowly add the melted butter.

Next whisk in:

1/2 to 2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice (I like mine lemony so I added 2 tablespoons)
(Dash of hot pepper sauce-- optional)  I added freshly ground cayenne pepper
Salt and white pepper to taste

Now that the sauce is done-- make your Eggs Benedict!
Toasted English muffin, add ham, and poached egg

The finished product!
So was it worth the work?  My family says yes (but then they weren't the ones whisking!) The sauce is better than the sauce from the magic package but it is a lot of work. Will I make it again? Yes-- for special occasions and with the promise of my family to help with the whisking.

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