Eggs…one of our favorite foods. Top 5 for sure. Why we love eggs so much is simple: they are insanely versatile. From the numerous ways to eat an egg, to baking, sauces, gelato and so much more, the incredible edible egg is indispensable (for those of you old enough, you’ll remember that jingle for eggs way back when). And making an Eggs Benedict, can be tricky if you don’t know what you are doing! So we compiled our best Tips and Tricks for Perfect Eggs Benedict here for you to achieve an amazing Benny every time!
The Classic: Eggs Benedict
One of the best adaptations for a classic egg breakfast dish is Eggs Benedict. We don’t like to go too crazy changing the original recipe, but we have tried many variations and still prefer something close to the classic. You just can’t beat a perfectly poached egg on top of a seared slice of Canadian bacon and a toasted English muffin, with hollandaise sauce poured on top. Add a little paprika or cayenne and chives or green onions for garnish and, voila! A perfect Eggs Benedict.
Food Geek Paragraph: Eggs Benedict Origins
So, where is Eggs Benedict from?? Is Eggs Benedict an American (USA) dish, with Canadian protein, English bread and a French sauce? As it turns out, this is more accurate than we originally thought. The dish is an invention from the United States and, as far as the interwebs are concerned, it was first served in New York in the late 1800’s.
On the other hand, hollandaise sauce is a classic French sauce. It is one of the five French “mother sauces” along with tomato sauce, bechamel, velouté and espagnole. And it’s pretty bad-ass too! Most people associate this sauce with the Eggs Benedict application, and for a good reason! It’s fantastic on Eggs Benedict! It is classical on other dishes (asparagus, steak…) as well. The classic sauce calls for clarified butter. One of the main reasons is that butterfat content in the butter was (and still is) quite different from location to brand. Clarifying the butter nullifies this variable. However, if you are using a high butterfat “European style” butter that you like, using whole butter will produce excellent results. Oh, the other main reason for using clarified butter is from the restaurant industry. Once made, it is easier to work with and use in a busy setting.
What about English muffins? Turns out they are in fact English, but, for obvious reasons, they are just called muffins in England. Check “yes” for the English muffins being yet another (or one of the few) outstanding English culinary inventions.
So Canadian bacon? Is it really Canadian? Not really. And the supermarket type of Canadian bacon isn’t even pork belly. So, as we know it in the USA, it’s neither Canadian nor bacon. And if you ask a Canadian not familiar with American ways of naming things stupidly, they wouldn’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Believe me, Angela’s parents are Canadian and they rolled their eyes when I asked about this “Canadian” bacon variety. The kind of Canadian bacon you are most likely to find is almost all from the loin – not the belly.
But so what…call it bacon or Canadian bacon or back bacon or whatever you want. I’ve been known to call a cow “beef” and grapevines “wine plants,” so unless you’re writing a butchering book it shouldn’t matter much.
So, there you have it…a bunch of worthless geeky information on this brilliant Eggs Benedict dish.
Are Eggs Benedict Difficult to make?
Why are so many people intimidated by this amazing breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner creation? It’s most likely poaching the eggs and making a good hollandaise. A little practice on both and it will seem so simple. We find that assembly is the most challenging, because getting everything plated while the individual components are still hot takes some planning. So, here’s how I do it in simplicity:
- I sear the Canadian bacon and toast the English muffins first, then keep them warm in a 170°F oven while you make the other components.
- Then I make the hollandaise sauce and keep it warm over a double boiler (just keeping it warm, not over cooking, which can curdle the sauce).
- Then I can focus on poaching eggs perfectly and assemble the plate while doing so.
Just try it and if you mess it up then try again. You may nail it on your first try (just remember how you did it)!
OK…let’s address poaching an egg. This may be the most challenging part. I’m going to be super basic with this, so if you’re an expert and do things differently, then do you. But for everyone else in the world, if poaching an egg seems daunting, then hopefully this will help.
Everyone has their take on how the yolk should be, but I’m going to be talking about the nice runny style with firm whites typical of a classic poached egg. If you ONLY like your yolks hard, then maybe you should have a hard-boiled egg and you can skip this recipe.
I use a Le Creuset Dutch oven for this process. It just seems to work perfectly. I’ve used almost every type of pot/pan and this is what works best for me. If you don’t have an enameled cast iron vessel, it will still work fine, I just happen to prefer this vessel and cast-iron holds heat so well it’s easy to keep the temperature perfect.
How to Poach an Egg
Here’s the best method for poaching an egg that we have found:
- Bring a pot full of water (about 4-6 inches deep) to a boil, then reduce heat so you have a good, aggressive simmer, but not a boil.
- Add a tablespoon or so of distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar to the water. This will help with the formation of the whites.
- Crack each egg into individual ramekins or some other little bowl first. If the yolk breaks, it won’t work, so try again. If you got a piece of shell in there, I suggest that you remove it before you cook it and ultimately eat it (a plastic spoon works well). Some people recommend that you strain the egg using a fine sieve to remove the loose egg whites, but we don’t find that this makes a huge difference.
- Create a gentle whirlpool with a spoon and gently slide the egg into the center. Wait a few seconds, nudge the egg off the bottom and into the current of the whirlpool and then add another egg in the same manner. The nudging keeps the egg from sticking to the bottom and makes room for egg #2 to be dropped in (it may not even be necessary). If you have a bunch of wispy egg white strands it’s not the end of the world, but not optimal, and chances are the water is too hot. I’m assuming you’ll do two or four eggs at once, so you need to work somewhat quickly to ensure the eggs are generally the same when you take them out.
- The cook time on poached eggs is approximately 2 minutes here. OK, I’m going to just say at this point, it’s about feel and looks more than anything, but use two minutes as your guide. Your water temperature, how many eggs, and many other variables make it impossible to just go by time. Keep an eye on the whites and when they seem like they’ve firmed up, pull one out with a slotted spoon and look. Tilt it from side to side to see the firmness of the whites. If the white looks good – firm yet somewhat wobbly – you should be ready to go! This will take practice, so don’t give up after your first egg.
Eggs Benedict Assembly
The two minutes while the egg is cooking is GO TIME! You need to plate your muffins and bacon, so that the egg is ready to place on top. When removing my poached eggs, I turn them out onto some paper towels in my other hand to remove all of the water and then gently place them on my pre-assembled muffin and bacon plate. Finally, give your hollandaise a good stir, and pour it over the top of your assembled benny.
Eggs Benedict Sauce – aka Hollandaise
We prefer a nice citrusy and slightly spicy hollandaise over an eggy version. You can find our version for Lemon Hollandaise Sauce in the instructions below.
If you like a lot of sauce, pour it on, but I prefer a more moderate, or “normal,” amount of sauce.
I don’t think we need to break down exactly how to make the hollandaise sauce much here, but if your sauce breaks down, you’ve got an issue. Just follow the quick tips below and you’ll be fine. Using an immersion blender often solves this problem.
Eggs Benedict Quick Tips and Tricks
For those of you who are “too busy” to read my rambling above, here are some quick tips to master Eggs Benedict:
- ***Hollandaise sauce should always be kept over 140°F and for under two hours for food safety reasons. So making this hours in advance is not recommended at all.
- If the Hollandaise sauce is too thin, try an immersion blender to thicken. This works if the sauce breaks down also.
- The Hollandaise sauce will tend to thicken as you let it stand over the double boiler – taste it to determine if you want to thin it back out with more citrus or warm water. This is personal preference, but we prefer a thicker sauce.
- Use the freshest eggs you can get for the poached egg – farm fresh is the best if you can find them at your local farmers market
- An enameled cast iron pot (like Le Creuset) works best for poaching the eggs because of how it retains heat for even cooking.
- Crack eggs into ramekins first (not from shell to water). It allows you to put them in the water easier, at closer intervals, without that bit of shell that happens occasionally, and the finished egg will be more compact.
- Add any citrus (or any vinegar) in the sauce…experiment and see what you like. We often use lemon juice or white vinegar.
- Practice is the best way to know when the egg is done. Add eggs when the water is simmering and use 2 minutes as a guideline for a runny yolk but firm white.
- When removing the egg, use a paper towel to absorb as much water before plating.
Modifications on the Classic Eggs Benedict
Experimentation with everything is encouraged – here are just a few that I have tried and enjoy:
- Swap summer sausage for Canadian bacon
- Garnish with something other than chives (like parsley, cilantro, thyme, etc.).
- Use a crab cake instead of the muffin and fried green tomatoes instead of bacon for a southern twist.
- Use fresh orange juice in the sauce for a little sweeter version or grapefruit for an interesting alteration. Any citrus works!
- Use a good Italian, French bread, or Brioche in place of the English muffin.
- Add whatever cheese in whatever form to the assembly of the dish for a cheesy addition.
We encourage you to give this a try and let us know how it turns out! Happy egg-ing!
We hope that you enjoy this recipe for a classic Eggs Benedict! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
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