How To: Eggs Benedict & What I Wish I Had Known
They were so pretty before the disaster of a Hollandaise sauce was placed on top.
Photos by Molly Dunn
Making the perfect eggs Benedict is pretty difficult, I'm not going to lie. Not only do you need to poach two eggs, but you must create a hollandaise sauce, toast an English muffin (unless you're making your own) and griddle two slices of Canadian bacon.
I've seen Food Network stars make eggs Benedict on their cooking shows and read recipes for classic eggs Benedict, and I thought if I stuck to the recipe, following it to a T, then I could make this challenging breakfast. With a recipe, it can't be that bad, right? Wrong.
After making a few mistakes (crucial ones, might I add), I have developed a guide to making eggs Benedict along with helpful hints and tips I wish I had known about on my first attempt.
Step 1: Poach the Eggs Poaching an egg can be a daunting task, but it's easy to perfect. If you're like me and you don't poach eggs all the time, a fool-proof way to ensure your eggs don't stick to the bottom of your pot is to spray the pot with cooking spray. When I saw my mom do this the first time, I was confused, but it worked! *Fill the pot with water and heat until tiny bubbles form on the bottom, then add about 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar, which helps the eggs hold their shape by driving the egg whites toward the yolk, so your eggs won't spread and separate in the water. Slowly drop the eggs into the water and cook for three or four minutes. Remove the eggs from the pot of water with a slotted spoon and drop them into an ice bath.
You can keep the eggs in the ice bath until you're ready to assemble the eggs Benedict.
*Helpful Hint No. 1: When the water has tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pot, this is your cue to add the vinegar and drop the eggs into the water, one by one.
Step 2: Melt the Butter and Make Clarified Butter Now it's time to start making the hollandaise sauce. First you need to melt the butter. Melt two sticks of butter in a small saucepan or pot. While the butter is melting, scrape off any froth that develops on top. Once all of that is removed, let the butter simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then pour it into a liquid separator with a spout to leave you with the clarified butter.
Let the vinegar and peppercorns reduce to half in the saute pan.
Step 3: Reduce the Vinegar Once you have your clarified butter set aside, combine three tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns in a small sauté pan at medium heat. Reduce the vinegar to less than half, take the pan off the heat and add one or two ice cubes. This will add more liquid to the sauce base.
Step 4: Prepare the Egg Yolks While your vinegar reduces in the sauté pan, separate four eggs, leaving you with four egg yolks in a bowl. Whip the egg yolks until they are light and fluffy.
Step 5: Create the Sabayon With a strainer, slowly pour the vinegar into the whipped egg yolks and mix together. *Then, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water to whip the sabayon and slowly incorporate the clarified butter. You will do this for approximately three minutes.
Helpful Hint No. 2: To have more control over the heat, cook the eggs over direct low heat rather than with a double boiler.
This is the point where everything went downhill because my eggs curdled. Thank goodness I have a mother who can fix anything. So, if your sauce is lumpy and not smooth like it should be, you can do one of two things: take the bowl off the heat and add an ice cube if you catch it quickly, or if you caught it too late (like me), mix in another egg yolk. The egg yolk will act like a "binder" to bring your broken sauce back together, just like when you add cold butter to a broken butter-based sauce.
This didn't completely salvage the sauce (it was still a little lumpy), so I put the sauce in a blender to make it smooth, well, smoother than it was before. Next time, I will follow a simpler recipe that uses melted butter or one that emulsifies it in a blender rather than with a whisk stove-top.
Season the sauce with some lemon juice, cayenne pepper (if preferred) and salt.
Clearly the sauce was still lumpy, but it tasted all right.
Step 6: Toast, Griddle, Reheat and Assemble You're now on the final stretch. Toast your English muffin, griddle two slices of Canadian bacon, reheat the poached eggs for no more than a minute in simmering water and start assembling. Place one slice of Canadian bacon on each half of the English muffin, *then place one poached egg on each half and delicately drape the hollandaise sauce on each egg.
*Helpful Hint No.3: Gently dry off the poached eggs in a soft cloth before placing them on the English muffins. You don't want a puddle of water on your plate.
After all that work, you're finally done and can enjoy your gourmet breakfast. My mother and father enjoyed the eggs Benedict, even though I completely messed up the hollandaise sauce...I think they were just being polite. So, if you're willing to take a whack at making this complicated breakfast, follow these steps and helpful hints. But, if you'd rather skip the kitchen labor, here are five places in Houston you can enjoy eggs Benedict.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.