The universal symbol of new life is the egg, and as the earth comes alive in springtime, April is the month we pay the little egg homage. The egg is the single most utilized article of food in so many different varieties of dishes. Certainly, in no other food is there so much concentrated nutrition. Rich in vitamins and minerals and solidly packed with food value, the egg stands supreme.
National Eggs Benedict Day is April 16 – what a great dish to prepare for Easter brunch! No one knows exactly how it got its name and where the idea of the poached egg Eggs Benedict dish came from, although there are several stories that have circulated through the ages.
One plausible origin of the dish comes from a retired stockbroker who was interviewed by “The New Yorker” magazine in 1942. His name was Lemuel Benedict, and he claimed to have walked into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 looking for a cure for his morning hangover. He ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and hollandaise sauce.” Maître d’ Oscar Tschirky was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus, substituting ham and a toasted English muffin for the bacon and toast. (No word on whether Eggs Benedict cures a hangover.)
Since Eggs Benedict requires poaching the egg, here are some tips regarding poaching: have salted water just at the boiling point in a shallow pan or into a deep-frying pan. Break the eggs separately in a saucer. Slip the eggs carefully but quickly, one at a time, into the water with enough of the water covering the eggs. If the water has cooled, bring it back to a simmer, then remove it from direct heat, and cover. Let stand until the whites are just set and a thin film is formed over the yolks, about three to five minutes. Lift the poached eggs from the water carefully using a slotted spoon. Now the eggs are ready to continue with the Eggs Benedict recipe.
2 English muffins (or use toast, which is not quite as good!)
4 thin slices broiled ham
4 poached eggs
Split, toast and butter English muffins. Place a slice of ham on each portion. The ham should be of approximately the same size as the muffin. Top with a carefully trimmed poached egg and cover with Hollandaise sauce.
½ cup butter
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup boiling water
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of cayenne
Divide butter into three portions. Place one in upper vessel of double boiler with egg yolks and lemon juice. Cook over hot water, stirring constantly, until butter is melted, then add second portion of butter and continue cooking, still stirring. As mixture thickens, add remaining butter, and cook until sauce coats the spoon. Add boiling water gradually with salt and cayenne, and cook one minute.
TIP: Hollandaise must be watched carefully while cooking so that it doesn’t curdle. If it does curdle, add gradually one to two tablespoons heavy cream.
For a different version of Hollandaise sauce, try:
MOCK HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon paprika
Juice of ½ lemon
1 whole egg or 2 egg yolks
Combine half the butter with the flour in a saucepan, blend smoothly, add water and bring to boiling point, stirring constantly. Season, add lemon juice, and pour the mixture while boiling hot over the beaten egg, beating while pouring. Finally, add remaining butter, at little at a time, beating well into the sauce.