Eggs Benedict is a staple of many brunch menus. Delicately poached eggs, thick slices of Canadian bacon, and rich Hollandaise sauce, all atop a toasted English muffin. Eggs Benedict may look difficult, but it can be fairly simple to make at home. The dish dates back to the very first restaurant in America, Delmonico’s. In the 1860s, a wealthy regular ordered toasted English muffins topped with ham, poached eggs, and the chef’s hollandaise sauce. Later, the recipe appeared in Chef Charles Ranhofer’s 1894 cookbook The Epicurean.
To make four servings of Eggs Benedict, you’ll need:
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 8 eggs
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 thick slices Canadian bacon
- 4 English muffins split in half with a fork
- Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe below)
- Kosher salt
You’ll also need a large pot for boiling water, a small saute pan, and a bowl with ice and water. The bowl of ice water serves as an ice bath for the eggs.
How to Pre-Poach an Egg
You may choose to poach your eggs ahead of time, and serve the following day, or prepare them with the rest of the dish. To begin, add the vinegar to a large pot of boiling water. Continue to heat the water until the bubbles disappear. Crack the eggs very gently right above the surface of the water – the vinegar should help them hold the round form – and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the whites are barely opaque. Remove the eggs gently with a slotted spoon and place in the ice water bath to halt the cooking process. Keep the poaching liquid to re-heart the eggs when you’ve finished the rest of the dish.
Toasting the Ham and Muffins
Lightly coat the saute pan with the olive oil and add the slices of Canadian bacon. Warm on each side but take care not to brown the meat. Remove the meat, then add the English muffins, toasting the inside. Remove the English muffins from the pan and top with a slice of Canadian bacon. Place on you plates alongside the dressed salad greens.
Ingredients for Hollandaise Sauce
To prepare your Hollandaise sauce, you will need:
- 4 sticks unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
- Ice cubes, as needed
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
You’ll need a small saucepan, a small saute pan, a medium metal bowl, and a medium saucepan. Be sure to pay very close attention to each step of the process as well as the temperature of your ingredients. Overheating or mixing the ingredients together improperly can cause the sauce to break.
To make clarified butter, melt the butter sticks over medium heat. As the butter melts, carefully skim off the foam on the surface using a spoon and discard. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes to simmer the butter and separate the clear butterfat from the solid milkfats at the bottom of the pan. Once the butter is clear, ladle it into a measuring cup with a pouring spout, leaving the milkfat solids in the bottom of the pan.
To toast the peppercorns, combine the vinegar with the peppercorns in a small saute pan. Cook over medium heat until most of the vinegar has evaporated. Then, remove the pan from the heat and add a few ice cubes, letting them melt. Preparing the peppercorns this way, instead of simply adding cracked pepper to the sauce, releases the flavors differently and adds a depth of spiciness to your Hollandaise.
Whisk the Egg Yolks
Carefully separate the yolks from the whites. You may choose to keep the whites to use for another meal. In your metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks by hand until they become pale yellow and frothy. Gradually strain the peppercorn mixture into the yolks while whisking. Once the liquids are combined, pour about an inch of water into the medium saucepan and heat it to a rolling simmer. Put the metal bowl on top of the saucepan to cook the eggs. Make sure to continually whisk by hand for about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a metal bowl, as opposed to glass, ceramic, or plastic, allows the eggs to heat evenly at the proper temperature.
Create the Sauce
After the egg yolk mixture has cooked for about 3 minutes, very slowly add the clarified butter. If the butter is added to the eggs too quickly, the sauce will fail to combine, or “break.” Add just a few drops of the butter at a time to the eggs, whisking all the while. If the eggs start cooking too quickly, remove the bowl from the saucepan and lower the heat. If the egg mixture begins to curdle, add an ice cube to quickly cool the mixture. Keep adding the butter slowly until everything is combined. Be sure to continually whisk until the sauce is fluffy and foamy. Once complete, squeeze the lemon juice in and add cayenne pepper and Kosher salt to taste.
Prepare Your Benedict
Once the Hollandaise is done, reheat the poaching liquid and place the eggs back in. Cook about a minute, just to warm them up, then gently remove with your slotted spoon and place on top of the Canadian bacon. Spon a generous amount of Hollandaise over the egg and muffin stacks and serve immediately.
Alternate Eggs Benedict Recipes
Traditional Eggs Benedict is made with thick slices of Canadian bacon or ham, but many chefs and home cooks may choose to substitute a different type of protein for the ham. Popular alternatives include a crabcake or smoked salmon for those who enjoy seafood. A vegetarian alternative could feature toasted slices of tofu, sauteed spinach, or avocado slices. When preparing your Canadian bacon alternative, simply make sure that each portion is small enough to ft on the English muffin halves and that the flavors won’t overpower the richness of the Hollandaise and eggs.