breakfast & recipes: history of eggs benedict
One of the most scrumptious breakfasts enjoyed by many is Eggs Benedict. It is hardy, elegant and sinfully delicious. It is perfect for a leisurely winter weekend morning for it requires time and patience. Eggs Benedict is filling without making you feel weighed down. And, the buttery goodness will warm you from the inside out.
We honor the three possible origins of Eggs Benedict for our recipe is a combination of recipes from three very famous culinary artists. But, before we get to the recipe here are the three conflicting stories surrounding the origins of this delicious breakfast:
1. A retired Wall Street stock broker named Lemuel Benedict was featured in “Talk of the Town”, a column of The New Yorker, in 1942. Benedict stated that he went to the Waldorf Hotel in 1894, ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise.” He hoped this breakfast would cure a hangover. Oscar Tshirky, the maître d’hôtel, liked the dish enough to add it to the breakfast and luncheon menus, substituting ham for bacon and English muffins for the toast.
2. In 1967 a column by Craig Claiborne for The New York Times Magazine related information that he received in a letter from Edward P. Montgomery, an American living in France. Montgomery included a recipe for Eggs Benedict, stating that recipe had been given to him by his mother, who received it from her brother, who had been given the recipe by a friend named Commodore E.C. Benedict.
3. Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts wrote a letter to The New York Times Magazine regarding the 1967 article by Craig Claiborne. Butler claimed that the “true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict”, of whom she was one, was that at the turn of the century Mr. and Mrs. Benedict dined every Saturday at Delmonico’s. Mrs. Benedict asked if there was anything new on the menu. The maitre d’hotel turned the question back to Mrs. Benedict, asking if there was anything she might like. She suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top.
Who created Eggs Benedict will most likely remain a mystery, but regardless of the where, when and who this mouth watering breakfast will delight you anywhere, anytime.
English Muffins (Alton Brown)
1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1 cup hot water
1 envelope dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Non-stick vegetable spray
Special equipment: electric griddle, 3-inch metal rings (Small pineapple cans with tops and bottoms removed work well for metal rings.)
1. In a bowl combine the powdered milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, shortening, and hot water, stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool. In a separate bowl combine the yeast and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar in 1/3 cup of warm water and rest until yeast has dissolved. Add this to the dry milk mixture. Add the sifted flour and beat thoroughly with wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the griddle to 300 degrees F.
3. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to mixture and beat thoroughly. Place metal rings onto the griddle and coat lightly with vegetable spray. Using #20 ice cream scoop, place 2 scoops into each ring and cover with a pot lid or cookie sheet and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid and flip rings using tongs. Cover with the lid and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: The English muffins in the photo are store bought. While we have no shame in that (busy is an understatement around our kitchens), we have made the Alton Brown version. Here are a couple of things to remember. (1)Homemade English muffins may not have all the famous nooks and crannies of store bought. So, if your English muffin doesn’t look like Thomas’ don’t worry. It will taste infinitely better. (2) Homemade English muffins may be a bit thicker and a little doughier.
Hollandaise Sauce (Julia Childs)
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or more, if needed
6 to 8 ounces very soft unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper
1. Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale.
2. Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook. To moderate the heat, frequently move the pan off the burner for a few seconds, and then back on. As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.
3. By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you want.
4. Season lightly with salt and a dash of cayenne pepper, whisking in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve lukewarm.
Poached Eggs (Jacques Pepin)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar per 2 quarts water
4 large eggs, the fresher the better
1. Fill the pan with water to a depth of 2 inches or so, add the vinegar, and bring to a slow boil.
2. Rapidly crack and open each egg into the water, holding the shell as close to the surface as possible. The eggs will cool the water; adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. After a few moments, when the whites have just begun to set, drag the back of the slotted spoon gently across the top of the eggs, to move them off the pan bottom so they don’t stick. Cook the eggs for about 4 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
3. To test for doneness, lift 1 egg from the water with the slotted spoon and press both white and yolk. The whites should feel fully set but not too firm, and the yolks very soft. Poach longer for firmer eggs.
4. When set the way you like them, remove the eggs from the saucepan with the slotted spoon or strainer and immerse them in a bowl of warm tap water to wash off the vinegar. Set the spoon on a clean towel (or folded paper towels) for a moment to remove excess water, and serve eggs immediately.
Assembling the Eggs Benedict
4 English-muffin halves
4 thin slices Canadian Bacon
4 warm poached eggs
1 cup Hollandaise Sauce
1. Just before serving, toast the muffins lightly (if made fresh simply cut in half and turn over onto the griddle with a little butter to warm the middles). Butter both sides, and warm the Canadian bacon with a tablespoon of butter.
2. Center two English muffin halves on each warm serving plate; cover with a slice of ham and then a poached egg. Spoon hollandaise sauce generously over each egg. Serve immediately