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The Food Lab: How to Make Foolproof Eggs Benedict
Have you ever noticed that as your relationship with a person evolves, your assessment of their personality goes up and down in waves? When I first met my wife, our relationship went through its "oh my goodness, this is so simple and easy!" phase, soon followed by the "WTF? She is the most complicated and impossible to understand woman in the world" phase, before settling down into its current "OK, once you get to understand the underlying issues, it's actually all rather simple again" phase.
My relationship with Eggs Benedict followed a similar course. Ingredients list? Simple. Eggs, butter, lemon juice, Canadian bacon, and English muffin. Just throw them all together and you've got the world's greatest brunch, right?
That was before I realized that poaching eggs is the most difficult way to cook them and that hollandaise will curdle or break if you accidentally look at it wrong. Eggs Benedict, I said to the eggs one day while working on the line in the middle of a brunch service, I will never understand you, and maybe it's time we reevaluate our relationship and perhaps take a step back to the stage where we're merely providing carnal pleasure for each other, with none of the messiness that comes with more serious intimacy.
But no, we sought counseling in the form of incessant testing, practice, and research, and have now successfully managed to achieve that state in our relationship where things are finally simple again.
Once you've mastered a couple of basic techniques and learned a few tricks, you'll be happy to know that this same relationship is firmly within your grasp as well. You too will be able to partake in the pleasure of puncturing a snow-white, perfectly-shaped poached egg, napped in light, buttery-smooth hollandaise, and watching as that golden yolk spills out and spreads slowly over the crisply fried ham below, dripping over its edges and getting caught in the nooks and crannies of a toasted English muffin.
Foolproof Poached Eggs
The first step to perfect Eggs Benedict is poached eggs. I like to poach my eggs in advance. They can be stored in a bowl of cold water in the fridge for up to a few days before you serve them. All you need to do is reheat them in hot tap water for a few minutes before serving.
The real difficulty with poached eggs lies in the fact that there is a lot of loose, liquid-y egg white that floats and sets in thin wisps as the eggs cook. The key to perfect poached eggs? Use a fine mesh strainer to remove that excess white before you lower the eggs into a pot of not-quite-simmering water.
Check out the video above for more details (or take a look at a full discussion of poached eggs here).
Foolproof Hollandaise Sauce
Hollandaise was the bane of my existence for many years, back when I used to make it by hand at a restaurant every morning.
These days, it's become so darn easy to make that I could use it in place of milk for my cereal in the morning and it wouldn't add much time to my routine. I may try that.
With traditional Hollandaise, you'd whisk egg yolks with lemon juice over a double boiler until thickened and frothy, then slowly drizzle in clarified butter to form a thick, mayonnaise-like emulsion. My foolproof version dispenses with all of this. Instead, you simply put the yolks and lemon juice in a cup, then with a hand blender running in it, slowly drizzle in hot melted butter. The hot butter cooks the egg yolks as it emulsifies and you end up with a sauce that is indistinguishable from the real deal, all in about 2 minutes.
Check out the video above for more details (or take a look at a full discussion of Hollandaise sauce here).
Putting it All Together
Once the eggs and hollandaise are done, you're pretty much home free. All that's left is to fry up some slices of Canadian bacon or ham steak (I find that frying gently in butter produces the crispest edgiest and best browning for the tastiest results), then toast a couple of split English muffins, and you're ready to assemble the unrivaled King of Brunch.
If you must, you can adorn his head with some black pepper and chopped herbs like parsley or chives, but only if you really must.
Pro-Tip: learning how to get to this stage with your Eggs Benedict will greatly facilitate your journey towards reaching the equivalent stage with your partner.