Thursday, May 14, 2009

eggs benedict

eggs benedict has always been a favorite of mine. there were several years in my early twenties when my birthday dinner always consisted of eggs benedict, a bottle of champagne, and creme brulee. each of these is decadent in its own way, but combining them together was the ultimate treat.

that's why, for this mother's day i knew i had to make my eggs benedict. it's a favorite with both my mother and mother in law (and they both requested it this year). i always make my hollandaise sauce from scratch, and i have to say, it's not as hard as you'd think. the trick is to use the most amazing organic and free-range egg yolks you can get your hands on...the result will be both better flavor and the unbelievable yellow color you see in the photo.

6 english muffins
12 slices canadian bacon
2 bunches asparagus
12 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 sticks butter, divided
juice of 1/2 a lemon
olive oil
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

preheat the oven to 415 degrees. wash and trim the apsaragus, and spread it out on a rimmed cookie or baking sheet. drizzle olive oil (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) onto the asparagus and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. using your hands, mix around the asparagus so that each piece is well coated. pop into the oven and roast for about 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is soft and the tips are beginning to brown. it should still be bright green. remove and set aside.

to make the hollandaise, prepare a double boiler. if you don't have a double boiler (and i don't) simply use two pans that nest nicely (the one on top should be just smaller than the one on the bottom) and add enough water to the bottom pan so that the bottom of the top pan doesn't touch it when they are nesting. turn the heat on high, and whisk 4 egg yolks together until the water in the bottom is at a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer. begn adding the butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking to incorporate it, and being careful not to let the mixture separate or any of the yolk to get hard on the walls of the pan. once all of the butter is incorporated, add in the juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper to taste. whisk to combine, redude the heat to the lowest setting and whisk occassionally until the remainder of the meal is completed.

split the english muffins and toast them with butter. once toasted, set to the side.

set a deep large pan (or a pot) with at least 2 inches of water over a medium high burner. the idea is to get this water hot enough to be simmering, but not rapidly boiling. add the vinegar - it helps bind the egg whites together. now the eggs. before we go any further, it's important to tell you never to break your eggs directly into the water, you should break them into a small bowl or ramekin, and then slowly dunk them into the water. this helps keep the whites and yolk together. i will share my one trick to poaching eggs well (which my mother taught me when i was little), and that is to swirl your spoon around the outside of the pan, creating a bit of a tornado effect in the center of the pan, then (using your bowl) gently lower the egg into the center. cook the egg for about 2 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny, and then set aside onto a plate so that can be easily slid off when ready. you can cook several eggs at once, i still have trouble with this, but it is much faster. some of the white will move away from the yolk, and that's ok.

once all of the eggs are done, prepare the canadian bacon. though i am not one who usually relies heavily upon my microwave, there are a few times when it comes in handy. this is one of those times. canadian bacon is already cooked when it is purchased at the grocery store, and so i just pop it into the microwave long enough to heat it through. if you lay it out on a plate, and then cover with plastic wrap, and then heat (a minute, minute and a half tops) it won't dry out.

to assemble, place the top and bottom of one english muffin on each plate, top each piece with a slice of canadian bacon, add a small bunch of asparagus (it will lay over both muffins), add one poached egg to the top of each muffin, and then drizzle on the hollandaise sauce. eat immediately, enjoy!

this is always a hit when i make it, and i think that's due to the from-scratch hollandaise. nothing beats this decadent sauce when it's made at home, and you can further control the flavor by using the best quality eggs and butter. it's a treat, for sure, but suitable for a mother's day feast. the addition of asparagus is really due mainly to my obsession with it. the cinnamon is a special trick i use when roasting this fresh vegetable, which brings out it's natural sweetness and it plays nicely here with the rich sauce.

to vary up your eggs benedict, feel free to use lump crapmeat or seared shrimp in place of the canadian bacon, or smear the english muffins with the garlic and anchoy brown butter here for a decadent treat.

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