It is a beautiful day here in the Heights – a premature autumn breeze swirls leaves around one’s feet in anticipation of the fall to come. And yet there are still kayakers and jetskiers out on the Hudson, vainly prolonging the inevitable arrival of summer’s end. Over the weeks, I’ve settled in quite nicely, and dislike the city less and less each day. Transitioning to an urban lifestyle means not buying in bulk and having to grocery shop once every few days. I can walk down Broadway and pick up a fresh loaf of brioche and bouquet of hydrangeas all in one stop. I really appreciate the numerous farmers markets and the delicious food carts that sprinkle the streets. I enjoy my solitary strolls around the city, and actually find comfort in the opportunity to roam and explore the concrete jungle. It is somewhat liberating.
This morning, though, I am treating myself to a delicious brunch for one, complete with window seat view of the city and river below. Jealous yet? Just wait til you see what I made!
Back home, David and I occasionally visit Holder’s Country Inn for really big filling breakfasts, usually before a long grueling hike or road trip. We ALWAYS end up ordering 2 plates of Eggs Benedict, usually with hash and corned beef on the side. Sounds like an artery-clogger, right? But sooo worth it! Just make sure to run an extra mile or two that day. Well, going out to eat Eggs Benedict alone seems a bit like adultery, so I cheated a little and made it in my own kitchen. I’m sure you’ll forgive me.
Eggs Benedict & Hollandaise Sauce
Below is a basic recipe, with tons of room for creative improvisation. A basic Benedict begins with a split toasted English muffin, layered with some ham (or bacon), topped with a poached egg, then drowned in Hollandaise. Here, I added a quick guacamole (avocados + diced tomatoes + diced onions + splash of lemon juice + pinch cumin + salt), as well as some veggies to lighten up the whole thing. The acidity of the tomatoes and crunch from the cucumbers really helps add more flavor and texture. But really, have fun being creative here – the possibilities are endless.
In terms of chronological process, I suggest making the Hollandaise first. Then while you are poaching the eggs, you can get your fixings ready and toast the muffins. When ready, quickly re-warm the Hollandaise, assemble the muffin + egg, and spoon the Hollandaise over it. Done.
Easy Hollandaise Sauce
*makes about 8 servings, but you can definitely use it for other things, like over steamed veggies
3 large egg yolks
1 tbs water
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper or paprika
3-4 tbs lemon juice
8 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 tsp sugar
In a small saucepan, whisk together eggs, water, salt, cayenne/paprika. Place saucepan over VERY LOW heat and whisk vigorously for 3 minutes. The mixture should NOT bubble or boil, or your eggs will curdle and you will end up with scrambled eggs. If it gets too warm, simply move off heat but continue to whisk. Begin to add single cubes of cold butter into the egg mixture, whisking each cube until it has disappeared, before adding another cube of butter. Once all butter has been incorporated, slowly add lemon juice and remove pan completely from heat, all the while still whisking. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved. Taste test and make adjustments as needed.
If you’ve never poached an egg, this demo will really help. Also, if you are new to poaching, I suggest doing 1 at a time, nothing to ambitious. Poaching an egg can be tricky. It was recently a challenge on a Master Chef episode, but once you master poaching – you have bragging rights.
Water, enough to cover eggs
Splash of vinegar
Pinch of salt
Add water, vinegar and salt to saucepan/pot/skillet/etc and cook on LOW heat. Bring to a simmer NOT a boil. While you are waiting for the simmer, crack each egg into a bowl. So, 5 eggs = 5 bowls. When the water reaches a simmer (small slow rising bubbles), gently slide the egg into the water. It takes about 3-5 minutes for the egg whites to firm up. The vinegar helps the egg whites to coagulate and hold shape, otherwise you would have a stringy mess of egg protein floating in your pot. The egg is ready when the egg whites are firm (you can even pick it up and hold it), but the inside is still clearly runny.
If you want perfectly round poached eggs, you could always do the (tedious) water bath method, which requires you to preheat a set of ramekins or custard cups in a hot water bath, then adding an egg to each cup. It takes about 5 minutes for the egg whites to set.
Meanwhile, prepare the fixings/sides and toast your muffins!
Once cooked, remove with slotted spoon to drain the liquid and serve immediately.
sliced ham or cooked bacon
Hollandaise sauce, warmed
halved & toasted English muffins
To assemble the Benedict, simply layer ham, fixings, and poached egg on top of each English muffin half. Drizzle the Hollandaise sauce over the top, add a sprinkle of pepper, and enjoy!
It really is a very satisfying meal – even if it’s just for one. Today I’m a lot more hopeful and optimistic than I have been. The culture shock has worn off and I’ve finally made the transition. Now, it’s time to take the city by storm.
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York…
Addendum: I realize post facto that Salmonella’s been a huge problem in eggs lately. Ooops! Well then, I suggest eating scrambled eggs or an omelet instead! If I live through this, I’ll be sure to write about it in my next blog entry. Until soon (hopefully!)