Eggs Benedict is a classic, nourishing American brunch dish suitable as suitable for serving at elegant gatherings on high holidays as it is for eating in your bathrobe after a late sleep-in. Preparing eggs benedict requires some skill. Consider buying high quality ingredients such as fresh English muffins, organic Canadian bacon and organic, farm-fresh eggs and executing each step of the recipe precisely to get a perfectly poached egg and a smooth, creamy Hollandaise sauce. Variations on Eggs Benedict include the vegetarian Eggs Florentine, and vegan versions that utlize tofu and nutritional yeast. The chewy English muffin combined with the silky egg yolk and rich sauce along with a hearty slice of Canadian bacon are the texture sensations any version of this dish aspires to. Recipe serves 4.
Warm the Plates
Place your serving plates in an oven set to a low temperature to warm them.
Prepare the water for the poached eggs:
Put 16 cups of water into a large stockpot. Bring it to a boil. Add the vinegar and 2 tsp of the salt. Reduce the heat to medium and bring the mixture back to a simmer.
Brown the Bacon
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the bacon on both sides; it should take about 3 minutes.
Toast the English Muffins
Toast the English muffins lightly. They should be golden with a slight crunch but not at all brown. Grill them by placing them face-down for a few minutes on a very hot iron skillet if you do not have a toaster. Butter them very lightly.
Make the Hollandaise Sauce
Combine the egg yolks, fresh lemon juice, hot sauce and remaining salt with 4 tsp of warm water in a large bowl. Use an immersion mixer, small food processor or a blender on medium speed to mix the ingredients. Drizzle in the melted butter to emulsify the mixture. Set the Hollandaise sauce aside.
Prepare the Plates
Arrange 2 toasted English muffins side by side on each plate. Place one piece of Canadian bacon on top of each English muffin half.
Poach the Eggs
Use a wooden spoon to swirl the water in the stockpot, creating a whirlpool effect. Carefully crack each egg and slide it into the water. Let the eggs poach for approximately 3 minutes apiece. Remove the eggs from the water with a spoon especially designed for removing items from hot water and oil; a slotted spoon is adequate; one with a metal netting basket, such as those you can find in Asian grocery stores, works even better. Slide each poached egg on top of one of the pieces of Canadian bacon on every English muffin half.
Finish the Dish
Spoon 3 tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce over each egg. Sprinkle a dash of paprika over the eggs. Snip the parsley with scissors to distribute it over the dish. Parsley adds color and a refreshing flavor to counterpoint the rich sauce.
Serve eggs benedict immediately, while it is hot. Accompany this rich dish with a bowl of cold fresh fruit that is in season to balance the flavors, temperature and textures of the meal. Coffee, fresh citrus juice, mimosas and hot tea are all traditional accompaniments. An avant garde version for an elegant hot summer party might pair eggs benedict with strawberry-basil granitas and Champagne. Any potato dish that is not heavy on butter or cream works well as a side -- try crispy fried hash browns along with a bowl of wild blueberries.
Eggs florentine is a version of eggs bendict that uses sauteed spinach in place of the Canadian bacon. Substitute frozen chopped spinach for fresh if you have it on hand. Sometimes, fat slices of tomato are part of the assembly -- this is particularly effective during summer months when tomatoes are in season, and if you have a variety of colorful heirloom versions from which to choose.
Some people add fresh-ground black pepper to the finished dish; others add extra coarse sea salt.
Try making eggs benedict with whole grain muffins for a chewier, sweeter result.
Make your own English muffins to stretch the project into a day-long ordeal, then serve the dish for dinner with smoke salmon instead of Canadian bacon, and pair it with a crisp white sauvignon blanc. Add capers to accent the saltiness of the salmon.
As a dinner dish, you can accompany eggs benedict with sauteed or grilled organic meat and a salad of baby spinach lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil.
For another dinner variation, make a creamy mushroom sauce with cubes of turkey breast. Place steamed spinach on the toasted muffins, followed by the eggs. Add the mushroom-turkey mixture and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese instead of Hollandaise sauce.
Hard-boil the eggs then chop them and mix them with the Hollandaise sauce if you fail to get a good poached version.
Add a little turmeric to your Hollandaise to make it an even brighter yellow.
Use a handful of mixed fresh herbs from the garden for a particularly springy version. Dill, parsley, chives and mint are all lively options.
If you don't have English muffins on hand, serve the dish on slices of rustic country bread. The more holes that are in the bread and the chewier its texture, the better -- part of the pleasure of eggs benedict is enjoying the yolk as it melts into the bread's cracks and crevices.
Work with other fresh spring vegetables from your garden or the farmer's market to make a personalized seasonal version. Asparagus is a natural companion to these flavors; ramps and new potatoes also fit in beautifully. A warm rhubarb cobbler or slump is an excellent sweet accompaniment when the fruit is in season. A salad of snap peas can be an excellent counterpoint or palatte cleanser between eggs benedict and another dish in a multi-course brunch.