Eggs Benedict is, by far, my favourite breakfast dish but I am so often disappointed when I order it in a restaurant. Restaurants seem to specialise in making this most tasty of meals as sterile and as unattractive as possible. Traditionally the dish consists of an English Muffin (despite its name an essentially American concoction!) cut in two and each half is then topped with a round of ham, followed by a poached egg and finally a spoon or two of Hollandaise sauce. The result, while potentially tasty, is often bland and visually sterile – don’t believe me, do a Google image search, there are notable exceptions of course but the majority of the pictures can hardly be called appetizing!
So how to improve on this sorry state of affairs? First, ditch the muffin! A couple of slices of toasted Ciabatta make a far superior foundation for the dish while ensuring that there is enough bread to mop up the egg yolk and sauce without totally dominating it.
Next comes the ham and please, not slices of bland, watery processed ham, Iberian ham is perfect but expensive, back bacon works well but increasingly I find myself using smoked Black Forest ham (Lidl, for more details see the earlier post http://brunchatgoodies.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/schwarzwalder-schinken-and-shopping-at-lidl/). This ham is amazingly versatile and after baking on a good quality (i.e. heavy and non-stick) metal tray together with a drizzle of olive oil at 190 oC for 8 -10 minutes or so you will have wonderfully thin crisp slices of intensely flavoured ham, (any spare slices should be kept in the fridge in a sealed box for several days until required).
Slices of crisp oven baked ham make a perfect accompaniment for eggs benedict
Slices of crisp oven baked ham make a perfect accompaniment for eggs benedict.
Tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil are roasted in the oven, again at 190 oC, for around about 20 minutes; its worth preparing the tomatoes some 10 or so minutes before the eggs are ready to allow them to cool down, it is impossible to appreciate the flavour of a tomato no matter how good it is if it is scalding hot!
As for the eggs I have for long been a fan of both Burford Brown and Cotswold Legbar eggs from Clarence Court® (frustratingly these eggs are becoming increasingly hard to find in and around Glasgow and are no longer stocked at my local Morrisons, instead I have to trek right across the city to go to Waitrose or in the opposite direction to the Whole Food supermarket (who, for some as yet unfathomed reason sell Cotswold Legbar eggs lose). Both of these eggs have incredibly rich golden yolks and while the colour probably doesn’t add directly to the taste the difference between these eggs and so many others which are in comparison only pale imitations make me feel that these eggs do indeed taste better!
For the Hollandaise sauce I always “cheat” and buy mine ready-made from Maille which has the advantage of both convenience, being able to use just the amount you need while keeping the rest in the fridge for as long as 4 weeks. The Hollandaise is carefully warmed in a bowl over a pan of freshly boiled water which is then kept on a very low heat; be careful not to let the sauce get too hot or it will split.
Assemble the dish on a warm plate building up from the Ciabatta, followed by the Black Forest ham and Hollandaise sauce and roast tomatoes. Finish of with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of oil from the bowl the tomatoes were cooked in.
Rich runny yolks are a must!
Rich runny yolks are a must!
A more detailed recipe can be found at: http://brunchatgoodies.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/eggs-benedict/
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