Decadence is what makes eggs Benedict a star of the brunch table. To get there, order and timing are key (never fear, it’s all laid out in the instructions).
Once you’ve mastered this basic version, you can explore its variations: Add sliced avocado, or swap in some smoked salmon (eggs Hemingway) or creamed spinach for the Canadian bacon (eggs Florentine). Other variations: Virginia country ham with tomato slices and a touch of mustard in the sauce; fresh Dungeness crab with avocado slices.
For a low carb version, skip the English muffin and serve on a bed of cooked spinach.
Yield: 4 servings
FOR THE HOLLANDAISE
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or hot paprika, plus more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
FOR THE POACHED EGGS
8 large—very fresh—organic eggs *
FOR THE BENEDICT AND ASSEMBLY
4 English muffins, split
8 slices Canadian bacon or Smithfield ham
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped dill, tarragon or parsley
Flaky sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 170 degrees (the lowest most will go). You’ll be using the oven to keep the cooked Canadian bacon and toasted muffins warm on plates. You can also keep the hollandaise warm in a ceramic or metal bowl in the oven.
1. Cook Canadian bacon (or ham, or bacon)—
Cook in a medium skillet over medium–high heat until golden brown and just crisp at the edges, about 6 minutes. Remove to a plate in the oven.
2. Toast the English muffins—
Toast until crisp and golden brown. Don’t be afraid to toast them thoroughly: They’ll be covered in hollandaise and poached eggs, and will need to be sturdy. Remove to a plate in the oven.
4. Make the hollandaise—
Cut refrigerated butter into 8 pieces. Put four of the pieces into a small sauce pan with the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Put the heat on low and beat everything together with a whisk. Keep beating, and as soon as the butter is almost all melted, add another piece of butter. Repeat this until you’ve incorporated all the pieces of butter. (This will maintain the temperature) Remove from heat.
5. Poach the eggs—
Heat water a large pot to 180 degrees, which is about the temperature at which water is quivering, but not quite simmering.
Crack each egg into a separate small dish. Pour each egg into a fine mesh strainer, and gently swirl it around until tiny bits of excess white is drained away. You’ll be left with a nice, tight egg. Gently lower the strainer—one egg at a time—into the water, move it back and forth a little bit to make sure the egg isn’t stuck, and then carefully roll the egg out.
Once four eggs are in the water, keep them moving around, turning them over from time to time with a slotted spoon, so that they cook evenly. After about 3-1/2 to 4 minutes, your eggs should be cooked.** Repeat for the remaining eggs. Once eggs are perfectly poached, remove from the water, and let drain on a plate lined with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
**Check the eggs after 4 minutes: Use a slotted spoon to lift an egg out of the water, and feel the white for firmness. If it’s not quite done, slide it back in for another minute or so. Let cook until the whites are just set, but the yolks are still completely runny.
Assemble the Benedict: For each person’s plate, place two halves of English muffin, and butter them generously. Top each with a slice of Canadian bacon, ham or bacon, then a poached egg. Spoon hollandaise sauce over and sprinkle with chives, dill, flaky sea salt and black pepper.
- Every carton of eggs in the U.S. has a number between 000 and 365 on it. The higher that number, the fresher the egg.You can also tell how fresh an egg is by carefully putting it into a cup of water. As an egg ages, the air pocket in the fat end is going to get bigger and bigger, which will make the egg stand upright or sometimes even float. A really fresh egg will sink and lie flat on its back like this.