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Since this column will appear in May -- Mother’s Day month -- I’m indulging myself and exploring a recipe for one of my favourite things.
Breakfast is my favourite meal, and one which I can treat myself to at any time of the day. While I like my eggs sunny side up, coddled, or in an omelette, I enjoy them best in Eggs Benedict. The classic style has you lightly toasting a split English muffin, laying a slice or two of back bacon, Canadian bacon or peameal bacon on each half and topping each with a perfectly poached egg which you then coat liberally with a luscious hollandaise sauce. I must admit, I do NOT do hollandaise well so I rarely make this at home. It’s a great reason to go out for brunch, if you ask me!!!
There’s a restaurant in Montreal (and coming soon to a city near you) whose specialty is egg dishes. Called Eggspectation, it’s always a busy place and THE place to be for your weekend brunch. The line ups waiting for seating can sometimes go around the block. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Their menu boasts no fewer than 10 Benedict variations, starting from the simple Classic as mentioned above, running right through the full gamut to their outstanding Lobster Benedict; two perfect poached eggs on a bed of lobster meat, drenched in hollandaise. They use waffles, bagels, crepes and plain whole wheat toast as well as English muffins. They substitute smoked salmon (my personal favourite), grilled chicken, black forest ham or no meat. They “kick ‘em up a notch” or two with asparagus, spinach, gruyere or guacamole. They mix and match for you any way you request. Can we say “Benedict Heaven”???
The one, ever present, never changing ingredient, however, is the hollandaise. For those of you who are NOT faint of heart, I’ve included a couple of recipes to try. There’s the classic preparation as well as an innovation or two, and though I say I don’t do hollandaise well, I can assure you, I’ve tried these recipes and they’re fairly easy to reproduce and turn out a great sauce. If you’re still not sure, I’ve also included a quick method I can admit to having tested. It produces a creditable sauce that isn’t half bad.
The most important thing to remember for a successful sauce is to use a double boiler and make sure that a) the bottom of the double boiler top doesn’t actually touch the water in the bottom half and b) that the water in the bottom half never actually boils, but stays hot and simmering. If you find the water starts to boil, add cold water to it.
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons boiling water
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt the butter, separate the butter from the milk solids and keep it warm.
Heat the vinegar or lemon juice until just warmed. Have a kettle with boiling water on hand and a measuring spoon ready.
Prepare your double boiler so that the top half is above but not in the hot water.
Put the egg yolks in the top of the double boiler and whisk them until they start to thicken. One at a time, add four tablespoons of hot water, whisking well after each addition. Your sauce should have started to thicken nicely.
At this point, you can begin adding the warmed vinegar or lemon juice. Once your acid has been added and whisked in, remove the double boiler from the heat. Continue to beat well while slowly adding the melted butter. Add your seasoning and continue to whisk the sauce until it is thick and velvety. Serve immediately.