There are two famous New York eateries, which each say their version of eggs Benedict is the real one.I prefer the claim of Delmonico’s Restaurant, the very first public dining room ever opened in the US, since theirs is clearly the oldest. In the 1860’s, a regular patron of the restaurant, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, wanted something different to eat and asked Chef Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899) for his ideas. He offered her a dish which he named eggs Benedict and published the recipe in his cookbook, The Epicurean in 1894.
Coincidentally, that same year, 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict, a Wall Street broker, who was suffering from a hangover, apparently ordered “some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce” at the Waldorf Hotel in New York. The Waldorf’s legendary chef, Oscar Tschirky, was so impressed that he put the dish on his menu and named it after the banker.
Whatever the story, eggs “Benny” and a couple of variations seen here, are one of my favourite Sunday brunch foods.
I serve them with a few lightly steamed asparagus spears on the side and either a bloody Mary or a crisp prosecco, cava or dry sparkling wine.
Serves: per person
Preparation time: 5 min
Cooking time: 10 min
2 fresh large room temperature eggs
1 English muffin
5 or 6 slices thinly cut ham to cover the muffins
2 tbsp HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
6 asparagus spears
Deep sided 10 or 12 in frying pan
Asparagus steamer, or vegetable steamer
1. Prepare the HOLLANDAISE SAUCE and set to one side over a very low heat.
2. Fill a deep sided 10 in frying pan with water, add a good splash of white vinegar, and bring to the boil. The vinegar will help the albumen in the eggs hold together. Salt will substitute.
3. Wash the asparagus, and break off the tough ends. The spear should break exactly where the tender part ends and the tough part starts. Make sure the flower end is washed clear of sand.
4. Put just 1 in of water in the bottom of the steamer and set to boil. Add the asparagus and steam for 5 min.
5. At the last minute, add the carefully broken eggs to the boiling water and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit for 3 min for soft and 5 min for medium.
6. Break, do not cut, the muffins in half and toast.
7. Plate the muffins, arrange the slices of ham on top of the muffins, using a slotted spoon, gently lift each egg out of the water, drain excess water on a paper towel and then carefully slide the egg onto the ham. Top with a couple of spoonfuls of sauce and finish with a touch of paprika for colour. Decorate with the asparagus spears and serve immediately.
TIP: Up to 8 eggs can be poached at once in a 12 in pan. Break them into opposite sides of the pan as you go, to avoid the whites mingling, and remember where you started so you can lift the most cooked egg first.
If you are in a panic about this, use a packet mix. But the taste is infinitely superior if you make it from scratch. It only takes 5 min and can then rest while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients.
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon (or less!)
1/4 lb melted butter
1 tbsp hot water
pinch cayenne pepper
Double steamer, or a bowl over a pan of boiling water
PREPARATION AND COOKING
(See my blog of December 26, 2012, for an easy way to separate eggs.)
1. Beat the egg yolks in a pan over hot water so they start to thicken.
2. Add a few drops of lemon juice and keep beating.
3. Add melted butter slowly to form an emulsion.
4. If at any time it starts to separate, add a little very hot water and beat in gently.
5. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary. Season with a pinch of cayenne pepper for colour and bite.
TIP: Keep a kettle or pan of boiling water going on the side for emulsion separation emergencies. Just a drop at a time will rescue most sauces that look as though they are curdling.
Replace the ham with lightly steamed spinach for a vegetarian version. The spinach can steam along with the asparagus.
Replace the ham with smoked salmon or gravad lax for another delicious alternative.
PS: Please leave a comment, if you found something useful or interesting in this recipe. Or please add your own variations for others to share.