Recipe — Eggs Benedict, New York, New York, USA.

Weekend Eggs: the New York City Edition

New Yorkers love their café breakfasts and we’ve been enjoying eating them here. Probably the most popular item on any New York café or restaurant brunch menu is Eggs Benedict: a toasted English muffin, some good ham (often from Canada), soft-poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and perhaps some chives for colour and a slightly peppery counterpoint flavour. Lara had a particularly delicious one with a Moroccan twist at Cafe Mogador in the East Village.

While it’s a weekend eggs dish that never goes out of style, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s a dish that I’ve always used to test out cafés when I’m reviewing them. Why? While the dish appears deceptively simple, it requires skill to get it perfect – and get it to the table hot.

I’ve written about poaching eggs at home at length in my Weekend Eggs series over the last few months, but poaching eggs in a commercial restaurant situation is a completely different situation. Whether poaching the eggs beforehand and holding them so that they’re still soft-centred after reheating or poaching them to order, in a busy kitchen, and with orders piling up, requires skill. It’s all too easy to overcook the eggs, have them turn out tasting of vinegar from the poaching process, have them arrive stone cold, or have them arrive as a stringy mess from bad technique.

Hollandaise (essentially warmed egg yolks, clarified butter, cracked pepper, salt, lemon juice, white wine or white wine vinegar, and cayenne pepper) can test even the most accomplished chefs. Making it is an art requiring great timing, plenty of wrist action with a whisk, and a keen eye. The sauce can easily split or curdle. The finished sauce is thick in texture, but fluffy – not easy to achieve. And a batch should not be held for more than an hour unless you like making people ill – although some disagree on just how long you can hold the sauce.

One of our favourite cafés in Sydney, Australia, which we used to frequent every weekend when we were first starting to become a little obsessed with food, would turn out hundreds of plates of Eggs Benedict over a weekend. One cook’s only job was to keep making batches of hollandaise, while another poached eggs continuously, and yet another assembled the dish. They were consistently delicious.

One of the reasons making Eggs Benedict is generally expensive is because of the labour involved. It’s okay to pay $18–$20 for the dish if it’s made well. But that’s a big if. I’ve seen it done with horrifying ‘hollandaise’ from a Tetra-Pak carton. I’ve seen fatty, greasy bacon (as if the hollandaise itself isn’t calorific enough) used instead of ham. I’ve seen French baguettes instead of the classic English muffin. I’ve seen cold eggs placed on the muffin, sauce pored over, and then the dish placed in a broiler to heat the eggs. I once had all the aforementioned crimes against Eggs Benedict presented on the one plate.

So why would you bother wasting time making it when you can go to a café and order it? If you know a place that does it well, doesn’t break any of the rules, and doesn’t charge like a wounded bull for it, I say don’t bother making it at home. That is, unless you’re really interested in cooking. Why? Because hollandaise is one of the master sauces of French cooking and learning to make it gives you skills that will serve you well.

My favourite way of making it is the more complex, traditional way, where sliced shallots, cracked pepper and vinegar are simmered in a pan until almost dry, and then a couple of tablespoons of water are added to make a reduction. The eggs are added, and then clarified butter and lemon juice to taste. It’s complex, rich and delicious.

I like to ‘cook’ the sauce in a metal mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water (the bowl shouldn’t touch the water), lifting the bowl out of the pot to control the temperature. And controlling the temperature is very important. The most common problem most people strike is that the eggs start to cook. If this does happen, I take the bowl off the heat and add an ice cube, stirring vigorously to bring the temperature down. The other problem is that the sauce can ‘split’ or ‘break’, which is when you can see a separation of the eggs and ‘water’. The best fix is to have another mixing bowl with a tablespoon of water in it and then add the hollandaise slowly to this while stirring vigorously.

A couple of final notes… Hollandaise should be ‘lemony’ and rich and have a little cayenne pepper in it. Some would argue that hollandaise is only butter, egg yolks and lemon juice. Some people don’t like it lemony or with cayenne pepper – it’s still hollandaise if it’s not too ‘lemony’ or doesn’t has cayenne pepper, it’s just not the classic version. There are recipes around that mention Hollandaise and blender in the one sentence. If you do want to go that route, make it the classic way first so you understand the difference.

Eggs Benedict Recipe

Author: Terence Carter
Recipe type: Breakfast

Prep time:  10 mins
Cook time:  15 mins
Total time:  25 mins

Serves: 4

Eggs Benedict: a toasted English muffin, some good ham (often from Canada), soft-poached eggs, hollandaise sauce.
Ingredients
• Hollandaise sauce (see recipe below)
• 4 large farm fresh, free-range eggs
• 2 English muffins sliced in half
• Plenty of slices of good quality ham
• 1 bunch of chives

Instructions
1. Toast the muffin slices.
2. Poach the eggs as per this post.
3. Place the ham on the muffin slices.
4. Top with the poached eggs and the warm sauce.
5. Add chopped chives and serve immediately.
6. If you’ve pulled it off, champagne goes very well with this dish!

Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Author: Terence Carter

Recipe type: Sauce

Prep time:  10 mins
Cook time:  15 mins
Total time:  25 mins

Serves: 8

Hollandaise is one of the master sauces of French cooking and learning to make it gives you skills that will serve you well.
Ingredients
• 1 shallot, chopped finely
• ¼ cup white vinegar
• a few peppercorns
• a bay leaf
• ¼ cup water
• 4 large farm fresh, free-range eggs – yolk only
• 200ml clarified butter
• lemon juice to taste (1–2 tablespoons)
• cayenne pepper to taste
• salt to taste

Instructions
1. Add the first 4 ingredients to a pan over medium high heat and simmer until nearly dry
2. Add the water and reduce a little again, then strain.
3. In a metal mixing bowl, add the eggs and the reduction.
4. Over a pot of simmering water, whisk the eggs and the vinegar reduction with a wire whisk until it thickens – but doesn’t start to scramble.
5. Add a little of the clarified butter and incorporate that into the sauce fully.
6. Slowly add the rest of the butter, making sure to incorporate it fully.
7. The mix should have the consistency of thickened cream and a glossy surface. Remove from the heat.
8. Add a little salt, a little lemon juice, and a little cayenne pepper to taste.
9. The sauce can now be ‘held’ in a warm place for around an hour. Add a little water if it becomes to thick.




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  1. E. Thai

    I remember my siblings raving about the Eggs Benedict at breakfast on a recent cruise ship. I never tried it prefering a simple breakfast (I’m happy with bagels and cream cheese or a croissant). Guess I won’t be making Eggs Benedict in my galley any time soon.

    Can’t wait to read about your culinary experience in Chinatown (either NYC or Queens or both)…

  2. Lara Dunston

    You don’t like eggs? That’s cause you haven’t tried Terry’s eggs! ;)

    You’ll get to read about Chinatown soon, but not Queens, as we stuck to Lower Manhattan, and specifically the East Village & Lower East Side. Our aim has been to focus and dig deeper rather than race around and try and do everything.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Akila

    Yum! I make a vegetarian version of eggs benedict at home because I can’t often get a good veggie version in restaurants. It’s hollandaise sauce with a poached egg with sauteed spinach and mushrooms rather than the bacon. I don’t use a shallot or anything extra in my hollandaise but your version certainly looks good.

  4. Terence Carter

    Thanks for your comment. I thought about mentioning variations such as Eggs Florentine, but the post was too long already! It does go well with sauteed spinach, which I love.
    Many chefs – particularly French-trained – will tell you that a simple hollandaise with a little vinegar & lemon is not complex enough to be called hollandaise, lacking depth of flavour. I was taught to make it with the reduction, but that was for quite a large batch at a time.
    Cheers!

  5. Lisa Bergren

    Hoo-boy. How many hours a day do you spend in the kitchen, T? Sounds DIVINE–love a good EB–but man, that’s a lot of work! Tomorrow is Sunday. Can you swing by in the morning? Because I want some now but am not sure I’m up to the task…

  6. Terence Carter

    Hi Lisa, the sauce is a little time-consuming – although I hear some people make it in a blender
    I don’t find the sauces a challenge any more, the other night I made mayo – because we didn’t have any! Clearly I spend far too much time in the kitchen!

  7. Edna

    Wow, I had NO idea how much work goes into Eggs Benedict. I always wondered why they were so pricey. Thanks for such a detailed explanation and post!


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