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How to Make the Perfect Eggs Benedict (and Explore Some Delicious Variations)

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

perfect-eggs-benedict

What Does It Take?

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how to make the "Perfect English Muffin." At the end of that article, I suggested that one might use the P.E.M. as the base for the perfect Eggs Benedict.

So, with that as an introduction, let's get started by looking at each of the components that comprises the Eggs Benedict and how to find the perfect example of each one.

perfect-eggs-benedict

First, Let's Talk About That English Muffin

An English muffin is no ordinary muffin. Let me explain.

  • This muffin is not baked in a cupcake pan; in fact, it isn't even cake.
  • English muffins are a yeast bread, flat (about an inch thick), round (the size and shape of a doughnut), but there's no hole in the middle.
  • Actually, there are dozens of holes (the interior of the bread is cratered) that are simply perfect for absorbing sweet jam, creamy melted butter, or the spill from an exquisitely poached egg.
  • The exterior is golden brown on the top and bottom.

And there's one more distinction. English muffins are baked not in the oven but on a griddle. This is my standard recipe but I've cut it in half to make just 6 English muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 envelope (1 1/8 teaspoons) dry yeast (not rapid rise or bread machine)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 taeaspoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine water, sugar, and yeast in small bowl. Let stand for 10-12 minutes or until bubbly.
  2. In bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture and the olive oil.
  3. Process until a smooth ball of dough forms. It will release from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Place dough in a clean bowl which has been lightly greased. Cover and set in a warm, draft-free place. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
  5. When the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl. Roll out on a generously-floured surface to 1/2-inch thickness.
  6. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or the rim of a drinking glass will work in a pinch), cut out rounds. Be careful to push straight down; don't twist the cutter or glass rim. That distorts the sides of the muffin and affects its ability to rise straight up.
  7. The easiest way to handle and cook these muffins is to lay them right onto the cold surface you'll be frying them on. That way, you don't have to move them once they've risen; and they won't mind cooking very slowly as you fire the griddle up to its desired heat.
  8. Cover the muffins (a kitchen towel works well), and let them rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Cook the muffins over medium-low heat for about 7-9 minutes per side, until their crust is golden brown, and their interior is cooked through. When done, the center of a muffin should register about 200 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer. If you find the muffins have browned before they're cooked all the way through, no worries; simply pop them into the preheated 350 degrees F. oven for about 10 minutes or so, or until they're thoroughly cooked.
perfect-eggs-benedict

Poached Egg

Let me begin by saying that poached eggs are not difficult. Even Mr. Diva can do them. Here are the simple, easy-peasy steps:

  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling turn the heat to low (simmer).
  2. Break your egg into a shallow ramekin or coffee cup.
  3. Using a long-handled spoon stir the water in a circular motion to create an eddy (whirlpool) in the water. (Imagine the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz).
  4. Carefully pour the egg into the whirlpool and set your timer for 3 minutes.
  5. After 3 minutes, remove your egg with a slotted spoon.

However, if you've tried that "cyclone/whirlpool" thing and didn't like it, or just aren't confident that it will work for you, here is another method from the Food Lab.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Delishably

perfect-eggs-benedict

Canadian Bacon

I live in the United States. We call this "Canadian bacon" (why, I don't know). In Canada (and probably everywhere else on the planet), it is called "back bacon." This meat is more like ham than bacon strips and is taken not from the belly but from the loin. It is lean and smoky, buttery soft (cuts with a fork) and is the perfect salty-savory foil to the creamy luscious egg yolk.

perfect-eggs-benedict

Hollandaise Sauce

Unlike many other sauces that begin with a puree of vegetables or fruits or a simple roux of fat and flour, hollandaise is an "emulsion."

In the words of Martin Luther, “What does this mean?” Simply put, two opposing forces (water and oil) are magically combined. The droplets of fat in the butter are suspended in the watery portion of the eggs. Actually, it’s not magic. A fast-moving whisk provides the abracadabra. Don’t worry. I’ll show you a video to guide you to that emulsified bliss.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more as needed
  • Kosher salt

Directions (from Fine Cooking)

  • Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat and let stand for a few minutes off the heat. Don’t stir it—you want the milky solids to fall to the bottom and the clear yellow butterfat to float to the top. Skim off any milk solids still on the surface with a spoon. Pour the butterfat into a measuring cup, leaving the milky-watery layer behind. Keep warm.
  • Fill a 3-quart saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat; then reduce the heat to low.
  • Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbs. water in a 2-quart stainless-steel bowl that will fit over the saucepan without touching the water. Put the bowl over the pan and whisk vigorously until the mixture is thick and frothy and the whisk leaves a trail in the mixture, 2 to 5 minutes. Scrape around the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula from time to time so that the yolks don’t stick or overcook and curdle.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for another 30 seconds, letting the eggs cool down a bit.
  • Lay a folded kitchen towel over a cool saucepan off the heat and nestle the bowl into the pan to hold the bowl steady. Slowly drizzle in the warm clarified butter, whisking constantly, until all the butter is added and the sauce is smooth and creamy. (If at any point the sauce breaks and looks curdled, stop adding the butter and see Hollandaise Troubleshooting, opposite).
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

And a Healthier/Simpler Version

If the prospect of consuming melted butter AND making an emulsion frightens you away, there is another recipe you could try. This is from the creators of Cooking Light magazine. Butter is replaced with heart-healthy olive oil and your trusty blender is used to create a creamy sauce.

And Some Other Suggestions

I promised some variations, and I'm presenting these in a separate section so that I don't offend the purists who state that the only authentic Eggs Benedict contains the elements presented above.

Now, let's have some fun.

The Bread

Instead of an English muffin, you could use:

  • toasted bagel
  • toasted French bread (that good bread from the bakery).
  • split biscuit
  • baked tater tots (yes, I know it's silly, but...oh my, so good!)

The Egg

There are those who are trying to limit the number of eggs in their diet; I can understand and appreciate that sentiment. (And if you are making the hollandaise sauce, perhaps you feel that the yolks are enough of a good thing). What could you use in place of that oozy egg? Well, these aren't quite as luxurious, but they are creamy and satisfying.

  • avocado slices
  • halloumi cheese
  • brie or camembert

The Meat

Although Canadian bacon is the gold standard, any of these salty/savory items could be a stand-in.

  • bacon. It's not perfect, but I always have some in my refrigerator (although, confession time, my choice is always turkey bacon, not porky bacon).
  • heirloom tomato slices (blot to remove the excess water), salt and pepper to taste
  • pulled pork {{sigh}}
  • crab or lobster (deeper sigh)
  • cooked or smoked salmon (excuse me, I need a moment)
  • grilled portabello mushroom slices
  • corned beef
  • steamed spinach. No, it's not meaty, nor is it savory. But if you sprinkle on a little ground nutmeg it truly melds wonderfully with the egg and sauce.

The Sauce

Mock Hollandaise (from Better Homes and Gardens)

  • 1/4 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

In a small saucepan combine sour cream, mayonnaise or salad dressing, lemon juice, and mustard. Cook and stir over low heat until hot.


Maybe you are vegetarian/vegan and don't want the egg-rich sauce, or perhaps you are watching your cholesterol. Here's a rich and creamy substitute without the cream (or the guilt). Yes, avocado does have fat, but it's the good kind.

Avocado Sauce

  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and pitted of course
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whirl in a blender or food processor. Add a touch of water if too thick.

© 2018 Linda Lum

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