The Trials and Tribulations of Eggs Benedict

Monday morning I awoke with the joy and vigor of a much younger man. The reason for this excitement, of course, was culinary. I intended to make an Eggs Benedict.

However, our dreams don’t always come true in the way we hope. 90 minutes later I emerged from the kitchen a changed man, holding something sort of like an Eggs Benedict. Here’s how it went down:

Step 1: The English Muffin

Everyone knows a good english muffin is the beginning of any good eggs benny. And this is where things started to go wrong. I accidentally purchased gluten free english muffins. So instead of a delightful British crumpet, I was faced with a hellish brick that had been brown rice perhaps a century ago. It was clear I would need to look elsewhere for my Benedict foundation. I shed a few tears for what might have been and started making biscuits.

Sadly, the biscuits were no better. I used the recipe on the side of a box of sourdough pancake and waffle mix (which apparently can also be made into a biscuit) and proceeded to manhandle my biscuit dough. The resulting biscuits were depressing, dusty little hockey pucks.

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A plate of very underwhelming biscuits in strange forced perspective.

At this point I had two failed circular breads and little hope. I decided I would go with a low carb benny, and moved onto the eggs.

Step 2: The Eggs

Following this brilliant guide by Jacques Pépin to poaching eggs, I managed to make some very pleasing poached eggs. I added salt and vinegar to my boiling water and got an excellent vortex swirling in the middle of a large deep saucepan. The eggs dropped in the middle took on an excellent shape and cooked perfectly.

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An egg begins it’s journey toward poach-dom.

Just like the video, I placed my eggs in ice water after they were done cooking. This worked brilliantly and I was able to reheat them later without sacrificing the right poached egg consistency. For someone who cooks as slowly as I do, having my eggs preserved in cold water was especially helpful.

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Ice baths — not just for NFL stars.

With my eggs set aside. I was ready for the real battle.

Step #3: Hollandaise

Hollandaise, when done right, is a substance I treasure similarly to oxygen and water. Notice my emphasis on “done right”. Anyone who has had an Eggs Benedict has enjoyed the wonders of hollandaise sauce, but it is a truly difficult beast. It’s a mixture of egg yolk and lemon juice that must be slowly whipped in with melted butter over low heat. If anything is done incorrectly, the hollandaise will break. And if it breaks, instead of fluffy heavenly brunch sauce, you get soupy scrambled egg yolks in a pool of butter.

Guess which one I got?

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Sadness

Alas my hollandaise was a disaster. I made a second attempt at a recipe that used a blender, and got marginally better results, but that sauce also broke after being left out at room temperature for ten minutes.

Clearly today was not my day, but I vowed to return and conquer hollandaise sauce in the future.  In the meantime, I still needed to make myself some sort of breakfast.

Step 4: The Pragmatic Solution 

I had a large quantity of vegetables I had previously roasted (roasted vegetables are a brilliant and easy snack) in my fridge. I saw the opportunity to make a quick vegetable hash like dish that would be the perfect base for my poached egg, so into the pan they went.

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Caution: veggies at play.

I sautéed some spinach to layer under the vegetables and piled them up on the plate. I warmed up my poached eggs in hot water for one minute to get them ready for prime time and they went on top of my vegetable pile. Finally I added just a dash of the less broken hollandaise — an echo from a more innocent time.

It wasn’t a Benedict. But it was breakfast.

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It was pretty tasty, and I’m quite pleased with how my poached eggs are coming along. However, the rest of the meal was anything but a success. Fortunately, we learn from our mistakes. A few more cracks at hollandaise and I hope I can construct a breakfast classic.

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