We enjoyed this favorite brunch meal at 2:30pm on New Year's Day after our farm chores were complete. Our menu consisted of Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce (which is rather like a savory zabayon, so the drippings on the plate near the strawberries were not a problem)–complete with our own eggs (my hens have been laying since the Solstice on December 21, probably lured more by the warmer days than the day itself)–and our own pork bacon on the side. I also served a combination of strawberries–fresh and locally-grown frozen ones–and we had a pitcher of Bellinis (made with chilled apricot nectar, instead of peach, and champagne: next time I will use our own canned peaches, as peach is traditional in this Venetian cocktail).
It was by far the most delicious batch of Benedict we've ever had–even better than breakfast at the (former) Ritz Carlton in Boston (often a special treat on day trips to the city). Perhaps it was that we were all very hungry by mid-afternoon or that using our own eggs (and bacon) really raised the bar a bit more. Either way, it was a most delicious way to ring in the New Year after a late night. I even had three (halves). As my husband often says, "Hunger makes a kingly sauce." As it turns out, so does Hollandaise. I used Julia Child's reliable recipe for Hollandaise sauce, which you can also use on fresh steamed vegetables like broccoli or asparagus. She is the queen of sauces and her two-volume The Art of French Cooking is a must for any cook.
To prepare the Eggs Benedict you'll need a good egg poacher (my husband is expert at making poached eggs so I leave this to him), some lightly toasted–and buttered–Thomas' English muffins, some good sliced ham–gently warmed–and a small pot of simmering sauce on hand for the last touch. You can also garnish with cayenne pepper and a smattering of chopped herbs. And don't forget the fresh ground pepper: grind liberally over the eggs just before serving. As for the cholesterol, well, our counts are low in that realm of numbers and I suppose I don't worry about it so much given that I know what my hens eat. Besides, it is Sunday and we never worry about what we eat on Sunday.
Julia Child's Hollandaise Sauce
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more
- 6-8 ounces very soft unsalted butter
- 1 dash cayenne
- salt, to taste
- fresh ground white pepper, to taste
- Whisk the yolks, water and juice in saucepan until thick and pale.
- Set the pan over medium low heat and whisk at a brisk speed, making sure to get bottom and insides of pan.
- Keep heat moderated by taking pan off and on burner. You don't want the eggs to cook too fast (I used a thick Le Creuset sauce pan which avoided this problem, but you do have to keep whisking and watching).
- You can tell when the sauce is near done when it thickens and feels more like a custard.
- Then, add the butter in chunks, whisking after each addition. When it is the consistency that you want, stop adding butter.
- Season lightly with salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne, whisking well. Add more lemon juice if desired.
- Serve warm.
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