Eggs Benedict is one of those classic dishes that just about everyone has heard of and most have not had – or have had some inferior version at a second-rate restaurant. The real deal is not all that hard to make. All we have is four basic goodies: poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffin, Hollandaise sauce. Nothing at all difficult here. The only touchy thing is getting the timing right so that it all comes together nice and warm.
From the 1920’s to the 1940’s just about everyone named Benedict claimed to have had something to do with the creation. There doesn’t seem to be any definite trail to follow. The only thing that I can say is that any claim after 1898 is probably off, since the oldest reference seems to be in Adolph Meyer’s Eggs, and how to use them, published in 1898. This reference may or may not be accurate, but the basic idea seems to have been around for a while.
Canadian bacon. Only in the US is it called Canadian bacon. Everywhere else it is back bacon. Anyway, get some. Slice thin and heat is all it takes. If it is the pre-sliced, pre-cooked stuff we get in my area then all it needs is heating up.
Poached eggs. There are two ways to poach eggs. The traditional directly in water or the use of a poaching pan. If you have a poaching pan you already know how to use it, so we won’t go into that. The traditional method is pretty easy. Get a large skillet, put about 2″ of water and a teaspoon of vinegar in it. Get the water boiling while you crack each egg into a separate glass or small dish. The reason for this is that you keep all the shells out of the way, and you cannot crack eggs directly into the water as neatly or fast enough so that all the eggs come done at the same time. Once the water is boiling, drop in each egg gently with a quick wrist motion. You don’t want the eggs to contact the bottom of the skillet or they may stick a bit. Reduce the water to a good simmer and cook for 4 minutes for done whites and liquid yolks. 5 minutes if you like hard yolks. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. You don’t want any of the water in your Eggs Benedict.
ASIDE: Herself found some interesting little silicone egg poachers that you float in the water. Work nicely, and the eggs slip out of them very easily.
English muffins. Split, butter, toast. Nothing special here.
Hollandaise sauce. This is one of the easiest things to make.
3 egg yolks.
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted gently.
1 tablespoon hot water.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Get the yolks, hot water, lemon juice into a blender. Put on the top with the center removed. Start up the blender and gently pour the melted butter in as the goodies blend. When all the butter has been added keep blending for a minute or two – we want a nice smooth sauce. You can make the sauce while the eggs poach.
Assembly: muffin half, bacon, egg, sauce. Sprinkle with paprika and some chopped parsley. That’s it. The only trick to the whole thing is to get the timing right so that nothing sits around getting cold waiting for something else. When it goes right everything comes done together and assembly is quick and easy.
Substitutions and variations abound:
Florentine: Leave out the bacon and substitute spinach, and you have a sort of ersatz Eggs Florentine. The older version used sauce Mornay, not hollandaise.
Seafood: Shellfish for the bacon.
Veggie: Avocado and/or tomato for the bacon.
Pacifica: Smoked salmon for the bacon.
Redneck: Biscuit, sausage, fried egg, sawmill gravy.