Perfect Brunch Dish: Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict

Here’s a question for you: What’ the most iconic brunch item of all time? How about Eggs Benedict? A dish that combines all great brunch elements – toasted white bread, butter, smoked meats and eggs – into a visually appealing and seemingly complicated work of culinary art that would knock the socks of most diners but few would be brave (or silly) enough to attempt at home.

Eggs Benedict-01-croppedEggs Benedict – The Ultimate Brunch Dish? – Source: Wikimedia

Eggs Benedict, even in its simplest form, is unique in that it combines some pretty simple elements: toasted muffin and simple proteins with two complicated ways of  preparing eggs – poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce – into a dish that is both visually stunning, full of flavor and the subject of countless variations and attempts of improvements. Indeed, Eggs Benedict is the mother of all brunch bitches dishes and sadly one that is hardly ever attempted at home given the apparent complexity of the dish and the processes involved.

I am here today, however, to once again tell you that even seemingly complicated dishes like Eggs Benedict can and should be attempted at home… With today’s post we’ll do just that, show you how to make Eggs Benedict at home and how relatively easy it is. We’ll even put on our gourmet pants and dress it up a bit using smoked salmon, lumpfish roe and other bells and whistles!

Perfect brunch dishesWhat’s missing from this shot? Eggs Benedict!

Now, I can tell you from sheer experience that Eggs Benedict is probably not the single easiest dish to make at home, but with a little (alright, a fair amount) of time, patience and concentration it can be done – and when done properly, it may well be one of the most rewarding culinary feats of your life. I’m not going to lie to you, it will take some time and a bit of thought to get this dish right. Thankfully for you, dear reader, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands and I’ve been doing a fair bit of thinking (along with a fair bit of trial and error) so you don’t have to. With this post, I intend to walk you through all major aspects of Eggs Benedict from perfectly poached eggs to easy Hollandaise sauce. We’ll even cover tips and tricks for making the dish ahead for numerous guests. There’s a recipe too, of course, but as always… first a bit of culinary history and background. Enjoy!

Just want the recipe? Don’t care about the history or technique? No problem, you can jump straight to the recipe!

 

Eggs Benedict History: A Benedict by any other name!

Like many classic dished I’ve written about in the past, the exact origins of Eggs Benedict are a bit hazy, confusing and lost in culinary history. However, unlike many classic dishes I’ve written about in the past, there is no shortage of people or places laying claim to the invention of Eggs Benedict. In fact, books could probably be written about the legends and tall tales surrounding the invention of Eggs Benedict, my favorite of which is probably the story of Lemuel Benedict, a famed Wall Street broker:

On one fateful day in 1894, according to legend (i.e. the man himself speaking to New York magazine “Talk of the Town” shortly before his death), Mr. Benedict stumbled into the Waldorf Hotel in New York City. He was suffering from a particularly bad hangover and cried out in his despair something along the lines of: “give me some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs and a hooker of hollandaise sauce!” The Waldorf’s legendary chef, Oscar Tschirky, according to legend (aka. Mr. Benedict) was so impressed with the order that he put it on the menu, substituting Canadian bacon for regular bacon and an English muffin for toast.

Oscar-Tschirky

Oscar Tschirky, one supposed inventor of Eggs Benedict – Source: Public Domain via Wikimedia 

As fascinating as this tall tale is, it is but one of many completely contradictory tales of how, when and by whom Eggs Benedict were invented – be it Commodore C.E. Benedict, Mrs. Le Grand Benedict or a fourth Benedict altogether. The only claim to invention citing more than one source is the story presented by New York City’s iconic institution, Delmonico’s Restaurant, which amongst at least 14 other claims of culinary firsts, claim to have invented Eggs Benedict. Eggs Benedict, Delmonico’s claim, were invented by then head chef Charles Ranhofer to please a regular customer, Mrs Le Grand Benedict, who found nothing to her liking on the regular menu. After a lengthy discussion, Ranhofer, according to lore, indulged Mrs Benedict with what would eventually become Eggs Benedict.

In his cookbook, The Epicurean, published in 1894 – the very year our drunken broker Lemure Benedict claims to have invented the dish – Charles Ranhofer gives what may be the first (modern) printed recipe for Eggs Benedict as follows: “Eggs à la Benedick – Cut some muffins in halves crosswise, toast them without allowing to brown, then place a round of cooked ham an eighth of an inch thick and of the same diameter as the muffins on each half. Heat in a moderate oven and put a poached egg on each toast. Cover the whole with Hollandaise sauce.”

But is it the original recipe? While this 1894 version is, in reality, what most of us would recognize as Eggs Benedict, the true origins of the dish are probably older. As pointed out by my blogging colleague Tekla in her beautifully detailed comment on my Coq Au Vin article, dishes are usually far older and far more rooted in tradition and word of mouth than modern day sources would have us believe. And, indeed, several sources date the dish back to The Old World to the times long before drunken brokers and picky eaters. In reality, the most probable origin of Eggs Benedict is an old world renaissance dish that has continuously evolved into Eggs Benedict as we know it today: Ham or Canadian Bacon on a toasted muffin topped with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

 

From Florentine to Hemingway: Eggs Benedict Variations

For as long as there has been Eggs Benedict, there has probably been variations thereof. From the classic Eggs Florentine which substitutes spinach for ham to the reasonably obscure Huevos Benedictos that adds avocado and/or chorizo as well as salsa to the mix – along with the Hollandaise! The variations are many and include such imaginative toppings as corned beef, pork scrapple and black pudding. Rumor has it there’s even Eggs Cohon featuring slow-roasted pork. It all makes a strange kind of sense, I guess. With the dish more than likely being a development of one or more Old World dishes, it would sort of make sense for every culture to have their own twist – and with sudden pop culture success in the early 20th century, it would only make sense that the dish spread into even more cultures like that of Mexico, and, well, Denmark. Yes. Denmark. Apparently there’s an Eggs Copenhagen now, substituting smoked salmon for the ham.

Flickr sekimura 2390523527--Smoked salmon eggs BenedictEggs Copenhagen – or is it? – Source: Wikimedia

An egg dish by any other name: Eggs Copenhagen, according to who you ask, is apparently also known as Eggs Atlantic, Eggs Hemingway, Eggs Royale or Eggs Montreal. Oddly enough, Eggs Montreal is the term most widely used in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom while the Canadians themselves often refer to the dish as Eggs Benjamin. For obvious patriotic reasons, I prefer the name Eggs Copenhagen even if I’d probably be hard pressed to find someone in Copenhagen who’d ever even heard of the dish.

 

And then, of course, there’s my version… A slightly elaborate version of Eggs Copenhagen featuring spinach, smoked salmon, a twisted hollandaise and lumpfish roe. In reality, I guess this beautifully elaborate concoction should be classified somewhere between Eggs Florentine and Eggs Copenhagen, but if I’m honest “Eggs Florentine Copenhagen Hemingway with a twist” is a pretty horrible title, so I’ve opted instead for the far less culinarily accurate but much more user (and SEO) friendly “Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict” … It’s probably not quite correct, but once we get into the details of this most recent culinary creation of mine, I’m sure you’ll forgive me my liberty with words.

 

Eggs Benedict My Way: Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict

I’ll be honest here. This dish, like so many others, would not have come about had it not been for a woman… Had it not been for several women, actually! I don’t remember exactly when or why I first thought homemade Eggs Benedict were a great idea, but I remember the process vividly: It was my friend Emelie’s birthday, we were cooking brunch, there was smoked salmon at hand, my other friend Malene had brought some extremely farm fresh eggs from her mom’s chickens. And then the word Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict popped into my mind and out my mouth. Somehow, being the crowd-pleasing idiot that I am, I was coaxed into thinking that poaching a few eggs and whipping up a quick Hollandaise to make smoked salmon Eggs Benedict was not only an easy but also a reasonable thing to do.

Somehow, thirty-some stressful minutes of swearing under my breath while exploring the thermal properties of eggs later, I managed to produce not only a Hollandaise but three reasonably well poached eggs for my first ever rendition of smoked salmon Eggs Benedict which I served to the lucky birthday girl and our other friend with the words: I love you, but never again!

Poached eggs and salmonAn early Eggs Benedict attempt – sans Hollandaise!

My vow, it should be noted, lasted a full couple of months. Right up until our next special brunch occasion when a package of fresh eggs and a few slices of salmon were handed to me accompanied by batting eye lashes and an “I know it’s a bit of work, but if you at all feel like doing that thing you do…” – Now, being the genius that I am, it took me only an additional two or three special occasions to realize that I was being played, and that I actually liked it. I liked making what I’d come to refer to as perfectly yelled at poached eggs, I liked the horror that was homemade Hollandaise. I liked the texture of the final dish, the complexity of the preparation, the satisfaction of nailing it and the happiness of my co-diners. I’d gone from hating the dish to loving it, to wanting to perfect it and its every element.

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict full shotSmoked Salmon Eggs Benedict in all its glory.

For years, I tried cooking the dish with slight variations, testing out new techniques, inventing new elaborate curses and delivering several more or less perfect results until one Saturday morning not too long ago, I suddenly got it just right and everything just came together in perfect harmony! I cheered, raised my cup of coffee in a toast to my own genius and determination and ate (in perfect solitude) one of the greatest brunch meals of my life… But what made this such an achievement for me? I’ll tell you!

 

Eggs Benedict: The Dish that strikes fear into the heart of men

What makes Eggs Benedict so complicated and upsetting? It is, after all, a five component dish: bread, smoked salmon, spinach, egg and Hollandaise. It is, however, the preparation of said five components that makes this not only one of the world’s most sought-after brunch dishes but probably also the single dish in history that, when made from scratch, has helped the most guys win the most girls over… Or, uh, vice versa, I guess. The dish, you see, does not call for regularly cooked eggsIt calls them it to be poached (cooked shell-less to simple soft-boiled perfection in barely simmering water) then topped with Hollandaise, essentially a warm mayonnaise made with clarified butter, whipped directly over a heat source.

In other words, Eggs Benedict requires perfect execution and timing of two of the most complicated egg preparations. Sounds intimidating? You bet! But Eggs Benedict is easier to make than you think and the results are spectacular. Heck, serve this dish to the right person at the right time we might as well call this post “your perfect guide to getting laid before noon in a few not-so-simple steps” … Ahem, but I digress!

How, then, does one make the perfect Eggs Benedict! Well, I’m going to assume that if you’re still reading, you’ll be perfectly comfortable wilting some spinach and toasting a muffin, even taking care of your protein of choice. My focus, instead, will be on the more difficult parts of the equation: how to (perfectly) poach an egg, how to make Hollandaise Sauce and how to put it all together – for yourself, your significant other, or a host of brunch guests. If you’re already comfortable with the concepts of poaching and hot emulsions, you may as well jump right ahead to my perfect Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict recipe. If you’d like a little more pep talk and tips, read on and I’ll share with you my tips for perfect poached eggs and easy, creamy Hollandaise.

 

Eggs Benedict Basics: How to make perfectly poached eggs

Poached eggs are the shining star of egg preparations. But for whatever reason, cooks fear poached eggs. They’re afraid they’ll break, turn ugly or watery or simply disperse into the cooking water as a stringy mess…

Perfect poached eggPerfectly poached eggs it’s easier than you think!

And out of fear more than anything, they will unnecessarily complicate the cooking process and make up all sorts of tips and rules for poached egg success. I’m here today to tell you that there are no secrets to poached eggs, no pro tips, tricks or shortcuts. And not many pitfalls either! If there is but one secret to the perfect poached egg, it is as follows:

Poached eggs are best made using very fresh eggs! Actually, they should only be made using fresh eggs. The fresher the egg, the firmer the white and the firmer the white, the better the results. It’s as simple as that. Many people will try to tell you a number of tips and tricks for making perfect poached eggs: from lacing the water with vinegar to whisking the water to create a vortex pool into which the egg should be dropped. The simple fact of the matter is that the main reason poached eggs break or disperse into stringy goo rather than perfectly cooked orbs is as follows: old eggs!

In reality, to make perfectly poached eggs, you only need four things: very fresh eggs, a reasonably wide pot of simmering water one small ramekin or saucer per egg and a finely meshed slotted spoon.

Preparing egg for poachingWant a perfectly poached egg? Drain it first!!

Just how old are fresh eggs? As stated, very fresh eggs are a necessity for perfect poached eggs. For optimum results look for eggs one week old or less. My best results have been with eggs about two days old.

 

Got that? Great, now here’s what we do:

  1. Allow the (unsalted) water to come to a slow simmer. That would be about 80C to those of you keeping track.
  2. Carefully break each egg that you intend to poach into its own ramekin or small saucer.
  3. Grab one cracked egg and carefully pour it from the ramekin into the bowl of the finely meshed slotted spoon.
  4. Allow the egg to drain over the sink or a bowl for a few seconds. The liquid that drains off during this time is what would otherwise usually disperse into stringy threads of coagulated egg whites during poaching.
  5. Very carefully lower/tip the egg from the slotted spoon into the simmering water.
  6. Set a timer for four minutes.
  7. Repeat the process with the remaining eggs, draining then sliding them gently into the simmering water at about 30 second intervals.
  8. When your timer goes off, start carefully evacuating the eggs using your slotted spoon. Go one egg at a time, remembering to start with the one you added first and moving in slow succession.
  9. Dump eggs briefly into cold water to halt the cooking, then carefully pat them dry to serve.

 

Avoid vinegar! Many egg poaching tricks will tell you to add vinegar to the poaching water as this helps firm up the egg white during poaching. This is by no means a lie, but it does so in a firm, rubbery, undesirable way – all while imparting a vinegary flavor to the eggs. Use fresh eggs and you’ll get similar results – with no adverse side effects.

 

If done correctly, using very fresh eggs, you should now find yourself in possession of one or more perfectly poached eggs. You may have to give the procedure a few tries before you’re consistently happy with the results, but once you’re there, you’ll be whipping out perfectly poached eggs every time in no time.

Foolproof poached eggs: Worried about breaking eggs into water? For an absolute fool-proof method, look no further than this video tip!

 

If at any time you find your poached eggs to be a little un-pretty, you may – extremely carefully and at your own risk – use scissors or kitchen shears to carefully trim off any stringy bits and cut them into perfection.

Perfect poached eggA couple of week eggs at different stages of the poaching process. Fresh on the left, week-old just going in on the right. Notice how even at only a week of age, the white seems less firm? We may have to resort to trimming here.

See, that wasn’t too bad, was it? Ready for the next bit of egg magic? Good! Let’s talk emulsions!

 

Eggs Benedict Basics: How to make Hollandaise Sauce

A Hollandaise is a simple and beautiful thing: A simple emulsion of rich, clarified butter beaten into soft, creamy egg yolks then seasoned with lemon juice, cayenne, salt and pepper. It is, in the eyes of the French, a Mother of a Sauce: Simple, creamy, velvety, comforting and versatile. Indeed, when famed French chef Escoffier in the early 20th century revised and made famous the concept of Mother Sauces: a group of five sauces on which all other sauces could be built, Hollandaise was one such mother sauce. A true classic of the French kitchen which has all but been neglected in the modern home kitchen. Why?

A Hollandaise, essentially, is little more than a warm mayonnaise made with clarified butter rather than oil made over a heat source. You beat a couple of egg yolks over a heat source, whisk in some clarified butter, season and serve. Simple, right? Uh, well, a Hollandaise, is also many a home cook’s biggest fear and worst enemy for one simple reason: fear of doing wrong! Few things can go wrong when making Hollandaise, but when things do go wrong, they usually go horribly wrong… To a point where you may as well dump the sauce and start over!

How to make clarified butter? If you missed my previous curious Eggs Benedict experiments and are curious about how to make clarified butter, look no further than here! Have no fear, it’s pretty easily done!

 

Easy Hollandaise SauceHollandaise Sauce, it doesn’t have to be complicated!

I know that doesn’t sound too encouraging, but stick with me, my story gets better. There are quite simple ways, you see, to make sure that things don’t go horribly wrong to begin with.

 

Zen and the Art of Hollandaise

A cook’s worst but only enemies when making Hollandaise are temperature, timing and lack of attention: keep those under control, and bear in mind that a Hollandaise can sense fear – then you’ll have perfect Hollandaise (or Bearnaise or other such fancy sauces) every damn time! Below, you’ll find a few simple tips for perfect Hollandaise. If you’re looking for a more complete recipe, you’ll find it near the bottom of this post.

 

Hollandaise basics no. 1 – Use low, constant heat

A Hollandaise should be served warm but not hot, so we need to prepare it over a heat source. However, we don’t want it too hot or the eggs will start curdling and break the sauce. If you’re new to the game, you can use a double boiler for the purpose, or you can prepare the sauce directly in a sauce pan set over very low heat. The latter is actually the method I prefer. Whichever method you chose, the first step to a perfect Hollandaise is to pick a low, slow temperature and stick with it, then work slowly and fearlessly.

Start beating the egg yolks and allow them to slowly and gently warm through and thicken. Remember that egg yolks start to coagulate at around 68C and that it’s better to have a lukewarm Hollandaise than hot scrambled eggs. Pay constant attention and if at any point the temperature appears to be rising too quickly, move the yolks off the heat and allow them to cool, placing the pan or bowl on a cool surface if you have to. It’s better to take your time than to start over with a new batch.

Pro tip: If you have an insta-read or laser thermometer, you can use it to keep an eye on the temperature of your eggs through the cooking process, thus earning you a bit more insurance.

 

Hollandaise basics no. 2 – Pay attention, timing is everything!

Most accidents involving sauces ending in -aise (mayonnaise, Hollandaise, Bearnaise) happen because the cook isn’t paying attention. So be prepared and allow yourself total focus on the task at hand for a good 10-15 minutes or so. Once you start whisking pay attention, move ahead confidently at a steady pace and don’t stop for anything. Once your egg yolks are warmed through, get ready to pay full attention to what you’re doing. Most Hollandaise mishaps happen at this step in the process because the cook simply isn’t paying attention: the sauce is neglected, things get too warm, butter is added too quickly… Either of those are a sure path to ruined Hollandaise! So once you’re ready to get the emulsion going, settle down, focus and get ready to pay full attention to your Hollandaise – your concentration and dedication will be rewarded!

Why must we be so focused? Simple- Emulsions are complicated concoctions. Through force, we’re bringing together components that don’t technically want to stick together like egg yolks and fat. As a result, emulsions are extremely fragile at first, seeking to break and come apart, so we must not only pay close attention as to what we’re doing, we must work carefully.

 

Hollandaise basics no. 3 – Move slow, have patience

To make Hollandaise (or any other egg-based emulsion), start out by whisking the egg yolks constantly while slowly and steadily dripping in the clarified butter at the pace of literally one to two drops at a time. Once the first couple of teaspoons of butter have been incorporated, the emulsion will stabilize and you can relax and start pouring the butter in a slow, steady stream – still whisking constantly.

Keep whisking, keep pouring, keep watching the temperature and taking the sauce pan off the heat from time to time if needed. Do so vigorously and concentrated and in as little as ten minutes you’ll have a sore bicep and one of the primal joys of the French kitchen: Sauce Hollandaise! Now all we need is an English muffin or a piece of toast, some protein and we’re ready to build our perfect Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict…

Fool-proof Hollandaise: Worried about your sauce splitting? Then this video recipe from foodwishes.com may be just the thing for you!

 

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict Recipe

The recipe that you are about to read is a far cry from my original humble attempt at Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. In fact it is, as the author of this post, a bit over the top. Sometimes when I develop recipes for this blog, things get slightly out of control and this is no exception. My Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict feature not only the best ingredients: wild-caught, smoked salmon, local fresh, organic eggs, delicious organic butter but also a tasty experiment that I’ve come to call elderflower Hollandaise.

Hollandaise, while perfect in texture is a sauce, that in my mind, easily gets a little bland and fatty. As a result, I season my Hollandaise and I season it well. For the purpose of this recipe, I used not only cayenne and lemon as tradition demands, but also – on a whim – a heaping dash of homemade elderflower vinegar that I had received as a gift from my food blogging colleague Malou when I visited her some weeks back. Obviously, if you can’t find elderflower vinegar or haven’t had time to make your own, you can substitute any good, flavorful vinegar but the sauce, in my mind, really needs that extra bit of zing and flavor to shine.

Champagne for Eggs BenedictLooking to impress? May I suggest Champagne? The ultimate Eggs Benedict accessory!

Speaking of subtle changes, ’tis being the season where all Danes obsess over fresh lumpfish roe, I decided to add a bit of the brightly pink pearls for garnish. You can quite easily leave out the generous pile of fresh lumpfish roe. But I’m Danish and as I said, ’tis the season… Of course, if you’re feeling extra generous or crazy, you can step it up even further and use real Caviar. The choice is yours, I’m just putting it out there, and telling you what I did.

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict
 
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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict - An iconic Brunch Classic with a twist of decadence and a shot of spice!
Author:
Recipe type: Brunch
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 English Muffin, cut into halves
  • 200 grams smoked salmon
  • 100 grams fresh spinach, washed
  • 50 grams lumpfish roe
  • 2 very fresh whole eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Cress for decoration
Hollandaise Sauce:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 200 grams clarified butter
  • Half a lemon, freshly squeezed
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of elderflower vinegar (can substitute other mild, flavored vinegar)
Instructions
  1. In a skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the spinach and cook till wilted, then set asid.
Make Hollandaise:
  1. Put the egg yolks and vinegar in a double boiler or small sauce pan set over very low heat and whisk thoroughly to combine.
  2. Keep whisking until egg yolks have warmed slightly and become visibly thick and creamy.
  3. NOTE: At no point during the process should the temperature exceed 68C. If you feel like things are getting too hot, remove the sauce immediately from the heat!
  4. Once egg yolks have thickened, start gradually working in the clarified butter while whisking constantly as if you were making mayonnaise - starting one drop at a time!
  5. Add butter a couple of drops at a time until an emulsion has formed and a few teaspoons have been incorporated.
  6. Once a few teaspoons have been incorporated, you can slowly drizzle in the clarified butter in a slow, steady stream, still whisking continuously.
  7. When all the butter has been incorporated, add the lemon juice, Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and give the Hollandaise a taste.
  8. Adjust seasoning as needed and add a little more vinegar for flavor and zing if you feel like it.
Finish the dish:
  1. Poach two eggs for four minutes according to instructions in the blog post above.
  2. While eggs are poaching, toast the English muffin halves and smear them with the remaining clarified butter.
  3. Top each muffin half with a generous portion of wilted spinach and half of the smoked salmon.
  4. Evacuate the poached eggs from their water bath after four minutes, dump briefly in cold water, pat dry and carefully place one egg on each muffin.
  5. Top each half with a generous spooning of Hollandaise sauce, a sprinkling of lumpfish roe a bit of cress and a few grinds of black pepper.

 

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict: The Internet Reacts

“Elderflower Hollandaise? You’re gonna have to sell that one to me before I call genius,” said my buddy Mads of Madsvin.com, echoing what many others were thinking, when I posted the results of my labor on Facebook… And I can’t say I blame him! It all sounds pretty weird indeed. The thing is, a perfect dish as it is, Eggs Benedict, especially when made with salmon, is a very heavy and rich dish featuring several shades of egg yolk laced with butter served upon fatty fish with only a bit of white bread and spinach to break the monotony.

Smoked Salmon Eggs BenedictPoached eggs, Hollandaise, roe… I call this image three shades of Egg Porn

While full of complex flavors, rich, decadent textures and intense umami depth, Eggs Benedict is the sort of dish that nearly topples over into fatty oblivion – and I  don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. However, in  this version, the vinegar really elevates the dish. The familiar zing of the vinegar helps cut through the richness of the salmon and the eggs while the perfumed floral notes from the elderflowers along with the citrus from the lemon and light warmth of the Cayenne creates an unlikely union that mixes with the light sweetness and smokiness of the salmon for a match made in heaven and an unexpected elevation of flavors and impressions.

It’s an odd combination, I agree, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, it just works and along with the crispy, salty roe serves to add depth and makes the dish more than a one-sided, albeit delicious, mess. If elderflower vinegar is not available, you can probably substitute apple cider vinegar or any other form of infused vinegar but try aiming for something rounded and slightly sweet and try to steer clear of regular white wine vinegar – it’s a little harsh for the purpose.

You may not believe me, but go on, try it: spice up that Hollandaise for your next (or first) great Eggs Benedict adventure – it makes a world of difference! Oh, and while we’re on the topic of adventures, allow me to leave you with a few kind words of advice for those of you looking to serve Eggs Benedicts for brunch guests. Remember, I’ve done the experiments (and the cursing) so you don’t have to!

 

Planning ahead: Making Eggs Benedict for a crowd!

If I’ve just spent 4000 words trying to convince you that Eggs Benedict is a relatively easy dish to make, why would I now disperse advice on planning ahead? Well, believe me, making Eggs Benedict for guests can be a bit of a challenge. And your troubles grow exponentially with the number of guests. Unless you’re really skilled and comfortable in the arts of cooking for company, poaching eggs and whipping up Hollandaise, you will more than likely want to play your cards wisely and plan ahead. Otherwise, you may well find yourself in the peculiar position that I, myself, have been in previously: stuck in the kitchen on a Saturday morning with one or more beautiful women staring in you in silent bemusement while you’re preparing what I’ve come to non-affectionately call perfectly yelled at poached eggs.

Random Egg PornMore random Egg Porn, another early version Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict attempt

Luckily, both major components of Eggs Benedict, poached eggs and Hollandaise can, to some extend, be made ahead – and should, in some cases, be made ahead:

 

Make-ahead poached eggs

Poached eggs can be made up to a couple of hours ahead. Prepare them as stated above, but rather than plating them right out of the cooking water, place them carefully in a pot of ice cold water, to stop the cooking, then place the pot, water, eggs and all in the fridge. Come serving time, place the pot, again with water, eggs and all, over gentle heat until the water is warm and the eggs heated trough, then proceed to plate and serve as you would normally. Poached eggs made this way will stay fresh for a good at least 2-4 hours without any noticeable loss in quality, taste or texture.

 

Make-ahead Hollandaise

Hollandaise, too, can be made ahead, but the texture will suffer horribly from growing cold or (even worse) being reheated. Your best bet here is to make the sauce just before your guests arrive (or arise, depending on what the hell kind of party this is) and then simply keep it warm, either in a double boiler set low heat or in a (clean, non coffee-infused) thermos. With proper temperature management, it should keep about an hour, after which the quality will start to deteriorate quickly.

 

Make-ahead Eggs Benedict: Order of Business

It may seem trivial, but knowing and using these simple little tricks can greatly reduce the amount of stress imposed on you when preparing and assembling Eggs Benedict for guests – and remember, planning ahead is not cheating. We’re still cooking everything from scratch – only we’re doing so wisely! Plus it’s allowing us to enjoy brunch all the more.

As a matter of fact, if your brunch party is large enough, planning ahead is pretty much the only way to do things! If you’re only cooking for two people, you can (pretty) easily follow the original recipe above: Make the Hollandaise, toast the bread, keep Hollandaise warm while poaching the eggs, then plate and serve… Not a problem! Now, try imagine doing the same for four people, six people, eight people… Ten? Doesn’t sound nearly as entertaining, does it? You’ll need to either poach the eggs in batches, have several pots going and probably borrow at least a couple of more hands and eyes to help you keep track of the eggs, evacuate them a the right time and plate… All while trying to keep your sauce from going cold. It’s stressful, time-consuming, dangerous and just not worth it!

What you’ll want to do if cooking for a crowd is to follow the make-ahead poached eggs trick above: cook your eggs slowly and gently in advance and move them into a pot of (ice) cold water as they finish cooking. In the minutes before your guests arrive, place the pot over gentle heat and get to work on the Hollandaise, then keep it warm as your guests arrive and get seated… Plate up and prepare to amaze!

 

DIY Eggs Benedict: Just Do It!

Well, I hope we’ve inspired you to give this mother of brunch dishes a go – be it the original classic version of Eggs Benedict or a more jazzed up version such as this Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict.

Please, read the instructions above again if you must, give it a try and you will most likely fare much better than you expect. Give it a few additoinal tries and you’ll beabout  ready to impress. Eggs Benedict in itself is a marvelous dish and a homemade version made with love beats any and all restaurant versions. Promise. Go on, try it, you’ll be glad you did. Don’t let fear keep you from trying out this most classic of brunch dishes… Get cooking and start impressing!

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