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Eggs Benedict: A Modernist Interpretation

July 7, 2009

I am not the kinda girl that lets a few missing ingredients stop me from eating what I’m in the mood for. Sunday morning was an Eggs Benedict kinda morning. No Canadian bacon? No any kinda of bacon? No English muffins? No bread of any kind? Bah, these are problems for a lesser (or at least less stubborn) breakfast maven.

What I had were eggs…sausage…a vague idea of what it takes to make a Hollandaise sauce… and the unbridled power of the internet to get me the rest of the way. And coffee. The boy made me coffee. So, there was that.

A quick scan of the internet told me this much: a shit load of stuff can go wrong when you’re making hollandaise sauce.

  • It can break.
  • It can breed germies at an alarming rate.
  • It can poison you because you made the crazy mistake of serving a sauce of raw egg yolks instead of slightly cooked egg yolks.
  • It can fail to get thick because your temperature isn’t quite right for the quite right amount of time.
  • It can piss you off.

But people have been making hollandaise forever, and it’s so delicious.

And I wanted it.

The end.

Local Bixlers Italian, Garlic, and Rosemary sausage from last week’s CSA

The boy, however, wasn’t so sure about the yolk-centric sauce. He wanted sausage. And egg whites. No worries, cause I had my coffee and was feeling culinary (which on a Sunday morning totally trumps alert and coordinated).

After separating three eggs with varying degrees of success, I started making my mash-up of potatoes and sausage, purely because I knew I wanted to include diced yellow potatoes, and they always take a while to cook.

Heating up some bacon grease, I added diced potatoes, sliced spring onions, sausage, and parsley to the pan, mixing occasionally so that it would cook evenly, turned the heat down to medium-low, then tented the pan with foil to simmer. The plan was to let this cook for roughly a half hour while I put together my hollandaise sauce and eggs, then pour the egg whites in for an instant protein boast. And also because what else do you do with three egg whites, just chillin’ in a bowl? Seriously. I’m open to suggestions.

The local finds were all over this breakfast – the mash-up consisted of all local potatoes, spring onions, sausage, egg whites, and parsley. All from either my CSA or Headhouse Market

The “Eggs Benedictish” featured local eggs and butter from my recent CSA, and lemons from a friend’s pint sized lemon tree. Plus the eggs and the tomatoes that I used instead of English Muffins, which I have to say, was BRILLIANT! Do this. It’s kind of awesome, and definitely pretty.

There’s countless ways to “present” your Eggs Benedict, if bulking tradition if your kind of thing. It’s definitely my kind of think. I went with tomatoes, sausage, fried egg, topped with hollandaise sauce. No one can accuse this of actually being Eggs Benedict. But is it delicious.

Some of the variations I’ve heard of that I’m gearing up to try:

  • Eggs Florentine – replace the ham or bacon with spinach.
  • Eggs Maryland – remove the ham and serve poached eggs drizzled with Hollandaise sauce on top crab.
  • Waldorf Style Eggs – replace the English muffin with toast and serve with poached eggs, sautéed mushrooms and mushroom sauce.
  • Norwegian Eggs – replace the ham or bacon with thin slices of smoked salmon.
  • Artichoke Eggs – replace the English muffin with cooked artichoke hearts.
  • Eggs Blackstone – use streaky bacon instead of back bacon and add a slice of tomato.
  • Asparagus Eggs – substitute the ham with asparagus spears.
  • Country Eggs Benedict – Replace the bacon or ham with sausage slices and cover with sausage gravy instead of Hollandaise sauce.
Ta da.

Hollandaise Sauce without Tears
with lots o’ help from The Joy of Cooking and the internet

1 tsp water
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup unsalted clarified butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp of hot sauce

Hollandaise sauce isn’t cooked thoroughly – the egg yolks are carefully warmed over simmering water just enough to ensure the egg yolks don’t give you some less-then-awesome disease.

We are not looking to boil the mixture at any time. That will make the mixture angry and lumpy. If the sauce gets too hot, we’ll have scrambled eggs, not hollandaise sauce.

Using the economical put within a pot method, add an inch of water to a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Do not put the bowl or top boiler on yet.

Melt butter in the microwave (or over the stove, but be careful not to brown). Once fully melted, let sit for 2 minutes so that solids come together on the top and you can easily spoon off to “clarify.”

In the ‘top’ bowl, whisk together water and yolks until the mixture lightens up a bit and is more lemon-colored (about 2 minutes). Place the egg mixture over the simmering water and whisk constantly until it has begun to thicken – at least 8 minutes. You know your sauce is ready when it coasts the back of a metal spoon.

Take the bowl off the saucepan and add the butter gradually, whisking all the time. When all the butter has been incorporated, the sauce should have thickened substantially. If this is not the case, or if your sauce “breaks” and seems like it’s separated and not creamy, add 1 tsp of ice water or cream at a time, still whisking, until your consistency is back to where you want it to be.

When all of the butter has been incorporated, add the remaining ingredients and serve.

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