Classic Eggs Benedict

Classic Eggs Benedict, as we prepared it in Culinary School, a restaurant favorite for brunch--now you can prepare it at home. The recipe includes cooking tips for successfully making the sometimes tricky Hollandaise sauce.

Servings: 4

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Pair With: A sparkling white or sparkling rosé wine.

Source: Recipe and photo courtesy Tama Takahashi, Touring & Tasting Food Editor


Ingredients For the Hollandaise Sauce:
1 pound butter
2 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
splash of Tabasco sauce

Ingredients For the Eggs Benedict:
Hollandaise sauce, as above
4 slices of Canadian bacon
spray olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
4 eggs
4 English muffins


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Directions For the Hollandaise Sauce:
clarifying butterClarify the butter by bringing it to a hard boil. At first, the butter will look opaque, but after a couple minutes of hard boil, the surface between the bubbles will begin to be clear. The butter in the photo is just about ready--you still see some streaks of opaque milk solids on the surface. When the surface is clear, pour the butter into a measuring cup and let the milk solids settle to the bottom. You can pour the clarified butter from the top. You should get a 75% yield from your butter--meaning that the water that evaporates out and the milk solids that settle our represent 25% of the original butter.

Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and heat until it is just below a boil. In the top of the double boiler that is set on the counter, whisk the egg yolks with about 3 tablespoons warm water. Begin to drizzle in the butter, whisking continuously. If too much butter is added and the mixture looks greasy, whisk faster until it is incorporated. If the sauce becomes too thick and starts to clump up, drizzle in warm water and whisk thoroughly--adding in small amounts until the sauce is smooth again. It should be a lemony yellow color. Whisk in the lemon juice and Tabasco. Then, cook over the double boiler, whisking continuously, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but then flow off the spoon. Serve immediately. The warmth and high protein content of Hollandaise provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, so do not let it sit out more than an hour and do not reheat it.

If the Hollandaise breaks, put about 3 tablespoons of warm water into a clean bowl and drizzle a bit of the broken sauce into it, whisking furiously. Continue whisking as you slowly add the broken sauce--it will come together but will never have exactly the same smooth, creamy texture and fluffiness as a well made sauce. Makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Directions For the Eggs Benedict:
Spray a bit a frying pan with olive oil, heat over medium low and brown the Canadian bacon on both sides. Remove pan from heat.

Break the eggs individually into small bowls or cups--ramekins work well. Fill a pot with water and bring almost to a boil, if the water boils, back the heat down so the water is simmering below the boil. Add the vinegar. Stirring the water with one hand, with the other hand, bring a bowl with an egg close to the surface of the boiling water and slide the egg into the water. Cook 3 - 4 minutes until the white is set but the yolk still feels soft when gently prodded. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat for all the eggs. If you want to rewarm the eggs, you can add them back to the water for a few moments before serving. Cooking the eggs together is not recommended for perfectly formed poached eggs.

Toast the English muffin halves until golden brown.

Plate the muffins, top with Canadian bacon, then the eggs, then the Hollandaise.

Chef's Notes:

3 Important Tips For Making Successful Hollandaise:

1. Use clarified butter--clarifying butter raises the smoke point 75-120 degrees--so clarified butter has a wider range of stable temperatures during the cooking process.
2. Add water to the egg yolk at the beginning of the process. If your temperature is getting way too hot, adding water will lower the temperature to 212 degrees (water boils at 212 degrees).
2. Keep the temperature of the ingredients between 90 -145 degrees so the yolks don't harden. They will begin to set around 145 degrees. The optimum temperature is about body temperature: 98 degrees. You don't need to use a double boiler if you can keep the heat of the Hollandaise low--if in doubt, use a double boiler!
3. Use the proper whisk and proper whisking technique--use a balloon whisk with many wires, designed for sauces.
Hollandaise is an emulsion--the blending of two dissimilar ingredients together. The emulsion is between butter and air, with the egg yolk being the emulsifier. The lemon juice is a flavoring component which is added after the basic sauce is made.