September-October 2014 | Food & Drink

Cooking Class: Eggs-ceptional

For many people, eggs Benedict with its rich hollandaise sauce is synonymous with brunch. But fans may be more likely to order the dish in a restaurant than make it at home because the preparation can be daunting.

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While making hollandaise sauce can be challenging, organizing your ingredients ahead of time and following these simple steps will help even the novice home cook produce a dish that’s restaurant worthy.

Eggs Benedict

INGREDIENTS (Serves six)

For the hollandaise sauce:

  • 8 ounces of clarified butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Juice of one lemon (about 1 ounce)
  • Salt and cayenne to taste

For the dish:   

  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 3 English muffins, divided into 6 halves
  • 6 slices of Canadian bacon
  • Butter
  • 6 eggs for poaching

CLARIFYING BUTTER

Unlike whole butter, clarified butter adds flavor without burning. Clarifying butter is a simple process that separates the fat—good for cooking at high temperatures—from the milk solids, which burn easily even at low temperatures.

To clarify 8 ounces of butter: Place cubed, unsalted butter in a small pot and bring to a low simmer. Allow the butter to bubble gently until all noise subsides and the bubbling stops, meaning the water has evaporated and only the separated fat and solids remain. Remove it from the heat and carefully pour the fat into a bowl, leaving browned solids behind. Clarified butter can be stored in the refrigerator for one to three weeks.


SAUCE ESSENTIALS

Hollandaise is a temperamental emulsion that can break (1) if it gets too hot, too cold, too thick, or too thin. Check the sauce occasionally while making the rest of the dish to make sure it is in good condition (2) for serving. If it is too thick, whisk in a little water; too thin, whisk the sauce in its bowl over warm water; too hot and butter is starting to seep out of the sauce, add an ice cube and whisk; and if it’s too cold, warm it up on the stove or whisk in a little warm water.

 


TO MAKE THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE:

  1. Fill an 8-inch diameter pot halfway with water and bring it to a low simmer. Have ready a 12-inch-diameter stainless steel bowl that can nestle snugly into the pot of simmering water.   
  2. Warm the clarified butter until it is hot to the touch.
  3. Crack four eggs and separate the yolks from the whites, placing the yolks in the stainless steel bowl. Add the tablespoon of water. Whisk the egg yolks and water briskly until a few bubbles form.  
  4.  Set the bowl of yolks over the pot of simmering water and whisk continuously for up to 5 minutes, rotating the bowl to ensure the eggs cook evenly. The whipped egg yolks will thicken as they cook in the bowl over the simmering water. The eggs are done cooking when you see the path of the moving whisk in the bottom of the bowl. The cooked yolks should appear creamy and foamy, and not look like scrambled eggs.   
  5. Remove the bowl of cooked yolks from the simmering water and turn off the heat. Using a small ladle, whisk the clarified butter into the egg yolks one ounce at a time. Add the lemon juice and finish with salt and cayenne. Hold the hollandaise in a warm place in your kitchen. You can set the bowl back in the pot of hot water that was used to cook the egg yolks.

TO MAKE THE DISH:

  1. Heat a wide shallow pan with about 4 inches of water to just barely a simmer; tiny bubbles should be active in the water. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the water. While the water is heating up, toast the English muffins either in a toaster or on a sheet tray under the broiler. Warm the Canadian bacon either in a pan with a little butter on the stove or placed on a sheet tray in a heated oven.
  2. Crack six eggs into individual, small coffee cups. Have a slotted spoon ready. Tip the eggs one by one into the simmering water. If the temperature is just right, each egg will form a skin just as it sinks to the bottom, and then will rise up slightly with the white gathering around the yolk. The egg is perfectly done when the white is firm but the yolk is still soft—this takes about 4 to 5 minutes. Cook an extra egg or two to test your results.   
  3. While the eggs are cooking, arrange the toasted English muffin halves on a plate,  and top with a slice of Canadian bacon.
  4. Check the hollandaise to make sure it is creamy and warm and well-seasoned. Using the slotted spoon, retrieve an egg from its poaching water, shake gently to remove excess moisture, and place the egg on the Canadian bacon. Then spoon on just enough hollandaise sauce to cover the egg but not so much that it drips all over the plate.