One of our favourite weekend brunches consists of eggs Benedict. Monsieur positively demolishes them and insists on eating eggs Benedict when we’re out of town, just to compare and contrast with what he gets at home. Most of the time my eggs win the draw, however I cheat 100% when I make them; it’s more of a combination of heat and assembly than true cooking. I don’t make my own muffins, nor do I make my own hollandaise sauce from scratch. I just source the best components possible, most of which can dangerously be found within our postcode.
First up – choosing the muffins. To avoid confusion, these must be English muffins, as fat as you can find. The supermarket variety tend not to have a particularly good consistency for the support of a poached egg. Use them with your eggs Benny and I promise you, you will regret it. Here speaks the voice of experience. Seek out a good artisan baker instead and buy their English muffins. The best ones are about 2 inches thick. Slice in half and toast until just golden brown.
Eggs may well be eggs but happy chooks make tastier ones. Go for large free range organic everything. You will definitely taste the difference.
I admit to being a messy poached egg maker on the best of days. No matter that I use white wine vinegar in the water or make a whirlpool before dropping the egg into the water, I get stringy whites everywhere, so I use Kitchen Cheat devices to make my eggs presentable. There are various kinds. Don’t go for the non-stick black metal ones; I’ve found that over time their non-stick coating comes off with the heat of the water and colours the eggs an unappetising grey. No one wants to eat grey eggs, even if they are hidden by fish and sauce. Try something like these silicon Poach Pods, which I found at Lakeland:
At £4.99 each, they’re worth it for the perfect egg shape to fit atop the toasted muffin. Zero skill required apart from knowing how to boil the water and crack an egg.
Smoked salmon is central to the success of eggs Benedict. Spending a little more than your average supermarket price on this key ingredient will pay dividends. Go for the best Scottish smoked salmon that you can afford (or Norwegian, if available). Stick to the traditional type – no fancy beetroot marinades or similar varieties because they’ll interfere with the flavours.
Have you ever tried to make home-made Hollandaise sauce? It’s an exercise in patience, trial and error. Personally, I don’t have time to make my own. Cheating once more I’ve tried various Hollandaise sauces and find that although the Maille brand is good, Mary Berry’s version is much better in both flavour and consistency, and if you happen to be in a good deli where they make their own, try theirs. No need to worry about curdling.
Have the oven on so that you can pop the eggs and muffins inside to keep them warm on their plates while you heat the sauce, which should only be done at the very last minute because it cools quickly, ruining the consistency. When it’s loose and ready to pour, whip out the plates, top the eggs with a neat criss cross of smoked salmon and pour the sauce across the smoked salmon. A sprig of dill popped on top completes the picture. Eat immediately.
I quite like a dollop of creme fraiche on the side to help cut through some of the vinegary tang of the Hollandaise, and to make it look less anaemic sitting there on its lonesome, I might add a spoonful of salmon ‘caviar’. Monsieur, being a traditionalist, thinks this is unnecessary and declines the additions. It’s a question of taste, I suppose.
Some trivia for you: you probably already know that Eggs Benedict is traditionally served with ham. When smoked salmon is substituted for the ham this dish becomes Eggs Royale, and across the pond it may be called Eggs Atlantic or Eggs Hemingway. I quite like that. Eggs Hemingway.