Saturday, February 14, 2009

Post Modern Depression Era Brunch: Eggs Benedict for two for $4.07

So I was intimidated to make Eggs Benedict from scratch, but actually it wasn't that hard, not that time consuming, and it was truly delicious.

Here's what you need from the sto. I shop at Trader Joe's and so the prices reflect TJ's expenses.

Butter (1 lb is $2.79)-- you only need 1 stick (70 cents). Can't use margarine, so don't even think about it.
English muffins (6 for $1.99, you need two, so 66 cents)
Eggs ($2.79/dozen, you need 7= $1.63)-- To make Eggs Benedict for 2 people you need 7 eggs. That's right, I said seven.
Canadian Bacon ($2.19 for 10 pieces, you need 4 pieces= 88 cents)
Lemon (35 cents at Russo's)
Tabasco Sauce ($1.99 Chili Pepper Sauce from TJ's= 10 cents)
White vinegar (pantry 10 cents)

There's one step to do the night before, which I scoffed at as a pain in the ass but it's not that bad.
Melt 1 stick of butter in the microwave until its liquid. Pour it into some container like a Tupperware and stick it in the freezer for 2+ hours. Stick a knife in it to get the solid mass out and you will see this gross milky scum on the bottom of the solid butter. Rinse it off with cold water. Hence, you have "clarified butter." Stick the butter back in the freezer till the morning when you are ready to use it. Seriously, it doesn't take that much effort, don't be a bum.

Okay, so it's breakfast time, yeah! I like to have my sous chef (Rosie) help me with things. First, if you don't cook much, get everything out that you need. The Frenchies call this mise en place. I do it because it's a habit, but let me tell you it's vital to do it for Eggs Benedict. The recipe is below which I have adapted from the Food Network (Sara Moulton's). She screwed up on the directions, so I fixed her errata.

2 English muffins split, toasted and buttered (Do this BEFORE you poach the eggs)
4 thick slices ham or Canadian bacon, warmed in the microwave
4 poached eggs
1/2 cup Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce:
3 large egg yolks and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup warm clarified butter (Clarify the night before then melt it in the morning in the microwave-- math majors out there, 1/2 cup of butter is one stick)
1 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (I don't think this is enough lemon juice. Vicki Lee's in Watertown/Belmont makes the most lemony Hollandaise I have ever had. I like about 2 tablespoons minimum lemon juice)
Dash Tabasco sauce (A dash is a tiny amount-- if you're a measuring freak, try 1/4 teaspoon)
Salt and pepper to taste (The original recipe calls for white pepper. I don't have that laying around and can't imagine buying it just for this-- if you don't mind the flecks of pepper, just deal)

Set up a double boiler to make the Hollandaise. All this is-- a saucepan with about 1-2 inches of simmering water with a smaller pan or bowl on top. Start a fire under the water and bring it to a simmer. I have one of those asinine ceramic stoves so I turn it to high to get it toward a boil then drop it to low when I am ready to do the eggs. You do NOT want the water to touch the bottom of the top pan/bowl. You will get scrambled eggs. BLECK!

In the pan/bowl that is going on top, BEFORE you put it over the water, mix 3 egg yolks (save the whites for something else) with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cold tap water. Whisk it until it gets frothy. Less than 1 minute.

Now put the egg mix over the simmering water. The water should barely be simmering. Here's another important step. You never stop whisking when you are making the Hollandaise.
Continue to whisk until the eggs are thickened, 2 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the eggs get too hot. The mixture will start to thicken and be a pale yellow. Remove the pan or bowl from over the water and keep whisking for about a minute to cool the mixture a bit.

Again, with the whisking, very slowly add the melted butter, then whisk in lemon juice, Tabasco sauce and salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water. Serve immediately or keep the sauce warm for up to 30 minutes by placing the bowl/pan back on the double boiler but completely off the heat source. The whole mise en place thing comes in when you are drizzling in all the butter, juice and Tabasco.

Meanwhile, it's egg poaching time. Here's what you do. You need a large saucepan and fill with 2-3 inches of water. Bring this to a near-boil (not a rapid boil, just an in between state from a simmer to a boil). I turned my water on the same time I turned on my water for the Hollandaise. It can be ready and waiting for you to poach your eggs. Once you are about to start poaching your eggs, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the water. I don't know exactly how this work but it keeps the eggs from glomming all together in a big fat mess. Okay, don't just crack the egg over the boiling pot-- that's just trouble. Instead, get out a bowl (or better yet four little bowls-- one for each egg). Crack the eggs separately into the bowl(s) and then add the eggs one at a time to the water. You can do this straight from the bowl. At this point, turn the fire down on the water-- you don't want a boil-- Some people stir the water before they drop the eggs in. I don't. The eggs are going to disperse a little in the water, but don't worry, they really will come out just fine.

Okay so cook the eggs for about 3-4 minutes. They will be runny in the center. Get'em out one at a time of the water with a slotted spoon and set on a plate. Now it's time to assemble: English muffin, butter, Canadian bacon, poached egg, and drizzle/smoother with Hollandaise.

Timing is a big issue for people, so let me go over a few timing things.

1. Turn on both pots of water at the same time, after you have all of your ingredients out and ready. Microwave the butter at this point as well.
2. Toast the muffins and butter them sooner rather than later unless you have a second person to be in charge of that part. If you have a sous chef, then they should be toasted right when you poach the eggs.
3. Warm up the Canadian bacon in the microwave-- don't cook it, just warm it up. This should be done while the eggs are poaching.
4. Make the Hollandaise BEFORE you poach the eggs. The Hollandaise requires your full attention until it is complete. Once it's done, your eggs should be ready to poach. If you have all of your eggs cracked and waiting for you it (back to that whole mise en place thing) it is a super easy move. To keep the Hollandaise warm, set it over the double boiler completely off the stove/heat. I like to set my top pan in crooked so that some of the steam escapes and the Hollandaise doesn't continue to cook. If it gets too thick for you, then add a teaspoon at a time of warm (NOT HOT) water and then guess what you do? Whisk it in.

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