Whenever it is my husband’s turn to have his birthday breakfast he always chooses the same thing.
Of course, I don’t mind one bit because it’s one of my favorite breakfasts, too.
And even though it is just four ingredients (English muffin, ham, poached egg, hollandaise sauce,) I used to dread doing the poached egg part because I didn’t really like the poaching pan I had. It was kind of like this one:
When I was growing up my grandmother poached eggs a lot and she always used one of these pans and an egg timer – you know, the hourglass kind? So when it came time to poach eggs, that’s how I did it. But my non-stick pan was pretty sticky and the little egg cups were too small…so by the end of it there were egg whites overflowing everywhere and the eggs were nearly impossible to get out without breaking the yolks. Not fun.
So I threw the pan away.
This is much easier.
I didn’t remember to take photos while I was poaching…but this is what it looked like. Doing it this way makes the whole Eggs Benedict process much, much easier.
You want a nice-sized pot of salted, boiling water. Once it is boiling, add a couple of TB of white vinegar. Then reduce the temperature to a very gentle simmer so you can add the eggs. I like to use a large soup ladle, but you can use a bowl or any small container, to gently place the eggs into the water one at a time. Let them float around and cook for 3-4 minutes and then remove with a large slotted spoon.
Let them rest and dry a little before plating them. One of the nice things about poaching is that it is a pretty healthy way to prepare an egg – no butter, no oil, no bacon grease. We’ll have to do something about that, of course…so, let’s talk about Hollandaise sauce!
Easily one of my favorite sauces.
A little bit of work. Yes. Yes. It is.
Now a traditional Hollandaise sauce starts with a reduction of white wine vinegar, shallots and peppercorns and sometimes white wine. However, I’ve seen plenty of recipes for this sauce that skip that reduction process entirely. Including Tyler Florence’s recipe. So feel free to skip that part if you aren’t particular about the sauce having all the authentic flavors…I mean, if it’s OK for Tyler, it’s bound to be OK for the rest of us, right?
This recipe is from one of my favorite kitchen resources, “The Professional Chef” by The Culinary Institute of America. At more than 1000 pages, it easily qualifies as one of my kitchen Bibles. Mine is 7th edition, but I believe there is an 8th edition out now. Good thing the classic stuff doesn’t change too much.
1 TB chopped shallots
1/2 tsp cracked peppercorns
2 oz white wine (or cider) vinegar
2 oz water
4 egg yolks
12 oz clarified butter (or just melted will do)
2 tsp lemon juice (if you skip the reduction part of the recipe, do NOT leave out the lemon juice.)
pinch of cayenne (optional)
Combine the shallots, peppercorns and vinegar in a small pan and reduce over medium heat until nearly dry. Add the water to the reduction and strain into a stainless steel bowl.
Add the egg yolks and set over gently simmering water. (If you have a double boiler, you can use that…or use a pot of simmering water – just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of your bowl and that the water isn’t really boiling. You just want a lot of steam coming up from the water’s surface.)
Whisk eggs* constantly until they triple in volume and will fall in ribbons from the whisk.
Remove the cooked eggs from the water and gently ladle in the butter (preferably at about 145°) in a thin stream, whisking constantly. The sauce should begin to thicken. (If it gets too stiff you can add a little water to help the eggs absorb all of the butter.)
Add the lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste. Add cayenne if you like. Hollandaise is best used as soon as it is made.
*If I have a bottle of white wine open, I will also add a few tablespoons of wine to the egg yolks before the whisking begins. Which kind of makes it a hybrid between a Hollandaise and a Béarnaise. But, really, no one in my house is paying that much attention.
Hollandaise is considered one of the “mother sauces” and can be easily varied to make countless other sauces. So it’s a handy recipe to have in your repertoire. Here’s a great explanation of all the mother sauces.
If you fold in whipped cream you have a Mousseline Sauce. If you add orange juice and zest you have Maltaise Sauce. Béarnaise Sauce is basically a Hollandaise with tarragon and wine and chervil added to the process. And if you add about an ounce of tomato paste or tomato purée to a Béarnaise, then you have created a Choron Sauce. Goodness that’s a lot of sauces.
When the Hollandaise is finished, I poach the eggs and toast the muffins and warm the Canadian Bacon, assemble on plates, drown in the sauce and sprinkle with paprika or cayenne. Hmmmm, it just occurred to me that this meal is quite an international feast: ENGLISH muffins, CANADIAN bacon and a sauce which is reported to be FRENCH and DUTCH. I, for one, am very happy all these countries combined their efforts. YUM.