Eggs Benedict. Yum! Poached eggs are the pinnacle of egg cooking for any chef. The problem is that it’s challenging to make a poached eggs that looks like something you would get a restaurant.
My first tip is that the fresher the egg the better success you will have, as the whites are less “runny” or more viscous when its fresh. When an egg begins to get older, the whites turn more “watery”. Use the freshest eggs you can buy for a better chance at success.
You can make a poached egg and eat it plain, without making it into something else like Eggs Benedict, but why go through ALL that work if a plain egg is all you want? Hell, just boil the thing in it’s shell until it’s soft-boiled and be done with it. Nope, you want to learn how to poach an egg so you can EAT Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine.
For eggs benedict, I will suggest starting with toasting the English muffins. I toast mine under the broiler. That leaves one side soft and makes it easier to cut and eat with a fork in the end. Then we need to work on the Hollandaise sauce. Great sauces are what great chefs strive to achieve. There is a chef’s station in French restaurants called a Saucier. The saucier not only makes all the sauces for the entrées but they can be involved in making stews like Beef Bourguignon, hot hors d’œuvres, and sautéing food to order. Mostly, they are the chefs who make the sauces for the entrées.
This whole sauce making thing is no easy task. Ask anyone who has screwed up the Thanksgiving turkey gravy and never heard the end of it, year, after year, after year. It’s difficult because it can take as many as two days to make some sauces all from scratch. While other sauces only take minutes. Hollandaise sauce is called a mother sauce (According to French cooking anyway) and one of the sauces that is quick to make. That does not make it easy, just fast to make. Hollandaise can be then used to make “other” sauces by adding, for example, fresh herbs. The sauces made from Hollandaise are called: Béarnaise Sauce, Dijon Sauce, Foyot Sauce, Choron Sauce, & Maltaise Sauce. They are in a class called Emulsified Sauces. I will be writing a whole lesson on sauces alone in the coming year as we explore each one over two dozen sauces and how they compare to say “Turkey Gravy”. Yes, that is a sauce! It’s not “Frenchie” but it’s a sauce. There are five mother sauces in all and each one has other sauces that are made from it. To explain it all now I would have to get out my charts and graphs. It’s a whole big science lesson thing and best saved for another day or a YouTube show.
Let’s get back to today’s feature article. Pull out our medium sized saucepot, for poaching the eggs. I use a 1.5-quart size pot filled with 1-quart of cold tap water. Add two teaspoons of white vinegar and one tablespoon kosher salt (2½ teaspoons of table salt). The salt and vinegar are not for taste but rather to help the pouched egg form/cook quicker and to help produce a better looking pouched egg. Bring the water and stuff to a boil so we can add the eggs later.
Now let’s make that sauce!
To make 2 cups of Hollandaise Sauce, you will need:
- 1 1/4 lbs. of butter (5 sticks), clarified* (you should end up with about 1 lb. of clarified butter)
- 1/8 teaspoon Salt, (kosher preferred so less if its table salt)
- 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons cold water
- 6 Egg Yolks **
- 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
- Salt, white pepper and Cayenne Pepper or Hot sauce to taste
- Clarify your butter*. (this already makes this complicated)
- Place salt, vinegar and crushed peppercorns into a saucepan and reduce by 2/3. Remove from heat and add water.
- Transfer reduction to a stainless-steel mixing bowl.
- Add egg yolks** and beat over a simmering pot of water until the egg yolks become thick and creamy. (If unsure about the thickness, monitor with an instant read thermometer and make sure the eggs do not exceed 150°F/65°C).
- Once the egg yolks have reached the desired thickness, remove from heat. Slowly drizzle in the warm clarified butter into the yoks while beating with a wire whisk, starting with just a few droplets first to get the emulsion gets going.
- Continue streaming in the clarified butter until it is completely incorporated. If the hollandaise becomes too thick before all the butter is emulsified in, thin the hollandaise with a couple drops of warm water.
- Finish by seasoning your hollandaise with salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to taste. Add just enough cayenne to help cut through the fat of the hollandaise and to add depth of flavor; your hollandaise should NOT be spicy.
- You can adjust final consistency by adding a little bit of warm water to both lighten the sauce and give it a better flow.
- The Hollandaise should be kept warm over a double boiler until ready to serve. The best holding temperature is about 145°F/63°C. This temperature both discourages the growth of bacteria and is hot enough to keep the fat in your hollandaise from solidifying. For both food safety and quality control, hollandaise should not be held any longer than two hours.
- Common Secondary Sauces: Bearnaise, Maltaise, Mousseline, Foyot, Choron.
Classically Served With: Eggs (Eggs Benedict), Vegetables (especially Asparagus), light poultry dishes, fish, Beef (Bernaise Sauce)
Holy cow that was a lot of work for just two cup of this stuff but it’s so good! Now if you are not into trying to prove yourself as a top chef and still want to try your hand a pouching eggs and/or making eggs benedict, I have a suggestion. Shush, don’t tell anyone, but its Knorr’s Hollandaise sauce. I use it when I’m being lazy, which means I always keep it in my spice cabinet and use it before it expires! Now you can concentrate on the eggs!
Now let’s make some eggs and heat up some ham. In a small pan add butter and fry up some deli ham or Canadian bacon is traditional. As the water comes to a boil begin to crack your room temperature eggs into a Pyrex dishes. I find when starting out it makes sliding the eggs into he water easier. Pro: Tip. Sit the water so it spinning around slowly, slide the egg right into the center and watch it drop to the bottom. Add the next eggs and so on up to 6 eggs. As the eggs rise up as come to the surface they are almost done. Professional chefs remote them now and place them in water that is a perfect 150 drees to “cook though to kill any salmonella. I like them float on the water just a bit long perhaps a minute or two before placing them on my already toasted English muffin. It time to assemble said Eggs Benedict, place a slice or ham or Canadian bacon on one half of an English muffin. Is any of this American? Next up the eggs on that. Why do we do it in that order? The ham stops the English muffin from getting way too mushy. Now, (wait for it) pour over your Hollandaise sauce. YUM! Serve immediately with a Bellini or Mimosa! I will have to try it with a Bloody Mary next time.
This whole this can be changed up very easy to a second recipe called: Eggs Florentine. This is simply done by swapping out the ham for some cooked and well drained spinach. I have used asparagus too but I don’t know what that’s called.
How to Clarify Butter* or make “Drawn Butter”:
Clarified butter, (my mother always called this drawn butter), is unsalted butter that is melted down and allowed to separate over very low heat so that the proteins that are milk solids can be removed. After the clarification process, the butter now has a higher smoke point and makes it great for cooking or frying in. I will explain why shortly.
The easiest way to clarify butter is over a water bath or double boiler. This allows you to gently heat the butter just to the boiling point of water or 212 degrees and will never get any hotter! At this temperature, the water literally bubbles up and out of the butter as it evaporates. What’s left is the whey proteins that form a a white foam on top. Eventually the foam will dehydrate as well and collapse as it cooks, leaving you a thin skin of whey protein on top. Some of the dry casein particles now sink to the bottom. If you did not use a double boiler for this process, they would eventually start to brown. We did, so we are safe to finish the process. Simply skim off the “skin” using a ladle or large spoon. Then pour off the clarified butter, being careful not to include any of the white casein particles that have settled to the bottom. Ka-Pow – Clarified butter! Clarified butter can keep in the fridge up to one year! So you can definitely make this ahead of time for any dish. I have a whole mason jar of this liquid gold in my fringe.
What happens if you do not use a double boiler? Then you run the risk of browning those milk proteins on the bottom of the pot. It that case you have now made something called “Ghee”. Ghee is a clarified butter made using almost the identical technique as above, but is cooked in a pot instead of a double boiler. Because the milk solids come into direct contact with heat from the burner, they can get to higher temperatures than 212°F. It is at this point they start to brown. If you continue browning of the milk fats (slowly) then the finished Ghee will have a dark brown color and a nutty aroma. This is very good for other recipes but it is not what we are looking to use in our Hollandaise Sauce. I love science and there is a LOT of it in cooking but no one tells you about it. No one except, Alton Brown and Harold McGee (listed alphabetically). These are just two of my favorite cookbook authors. Enough science for today, go enjoy your breakfast.
I think it’s time to take a break from breakfast so next time maybe we will do a lunch dish. Thanks for reading today and until next time; Stay Healthy, Be Happy, and Eat well!
The Drunken Chef (Russ)
** Separating eggs :The old fashioned way of separating eggs is by transferring the yoke back and forth between the half shells over one bowl. Then moving each item to its own bowl so as not to contaminate the eleven prior separated eggs with with a broken yoke on the twelfth try. The second method also involves three bowls. One bowl holds up a slotted spoon or strainer. Crack the egg onto the slotted spoon and then move the yoke to its own bowl. Then move the white it its own separate bowl. Repeat this process until you have enough yokes or whites for what you need. Extra egg whites can be frozen for future use. Mixed eggs (whites with broken yokes) can by used for omelets.
PS – You can also add to you menu the following: