After competing in the Project Food Blog competition, I realized that challenges were good for me. Not because I want to win something, but because they allow me to come out of my comfort zone. Without them, I would only be posting about soups and macarons. Nobody would like that, right?
So I decided to become a member of The Daring Kitchen, a site that brings together cooks from around the world who wish to challenge themselves to learn something new. There’s a group for bakers and another for savory experiments. Since I’m quite comfortable with baking (although I for sure have a lot to learn) I decided to become a member of the Daring Cooks, hoping to add new techniques to my savory répertoire.
My first Daring Cooks challenge in December was entitled “Poach to Perfection!” which challenged us to perfectly poach eggs to make Eggs Benedict. I have never ordered Eggs Benedict at the restaurant first because the sauce contains a lot of butter, which is not good for the lactose-intolerant that I am, and second because I only like my eggs scrambled (or I thought I did). I thought this was the perfect opportunity to allow me to not only learn a new technique but learn to enjoy something new.
Here are a few notes about my experience:
- I used store-bought English muffins, but next time I will try making my own. Someone in the challenge made Alton Brown’s recipe which turned out pretty well. Bookmarked for next time.
- I made Everyday Food’s Easy Hollandaise sauce (see recipe below), which seemed really quick and foolproof. Indeed it was! My only mistake was to make it a bit too much in advance and trying to keep it warm in a double-boiler. After a while, my sauce “broke” (separated), but knowing there’s a way to fix it, I didn’t panic! I found out how to emulsify it again (see tip below) and it came back together all smooth and creamy
- Making the poached eggs turned out to be easy. I heated the water to 200˚F (about 90˚C), and added a bit of salt and vinegar to it. When I poured my eggs in the water, I thought they wouldn’t work because there seemed to be a lot of egg whites dissolving in the water (like in an egg drop soup). When I fished them out, I had the surprise to find them all set and pulled together. Turns out just a very small portion of the whites spread out, nothing that prevented me from successfully plate my very first Eggs Benedict.
- I added asparagus and crispy prosciutto to finalize my recipe. Asparagus are a perfect match to the lemony Hollandaise sauce, and crispy prosciutto is better than bacon! Pancetta would be just as good.
Turns out everything went very well, the eggs were perfectly cooked, the whites well set and the yellow center still oozingly creamy. The sauce, which I made with goat milk butter instead of regular butter, was delicious and not too rich at all. When I close my eyes, I can still taste the incredibly silky texture of my Eggs Benedict and I only dream of the next time I’ll be making them.
Eggs Benedict with Steamed Asparagus and Crispy Prosciutto
Makes 2 people very belly-happy
2 English muffins, split and toasted
8 thick asparagus, tough ends removed and split lengthwise (or 16 thin asparagus), steamed for 1 minute in the microwave then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fleur de sel and black pepper
4 slices prosciutto, cooked in a pan for about 30 seconds per side, or until lightly browned and crisp
For the sauce (recipe adapted from Everyday Food Magazine)
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon warm water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt (do not add salt if you use salted butter)
1/2 cup (1 stick) goat’s milk butter (or regular butter, salted or unsalted)
For the poached eggs
4 very fresh large eggs
A large pot of water, heated to just below boiling point, about 200˚F or 90˚C (use a thermometer to monitor it)
A good pinch of salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Prepare the English muffins, the asparagus and the prosciutto slices. I made sure everything was ready before making the sauce and the eggs. I kept the English muffins warm in a 180˚F (85˚C) oven with the serving plates and zapped the asparagus and prosciutto slices in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm everything up right before serving.
Make the sauce: In a blender, combine egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and salt; blend until frothy. Heat butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over medium until bubbly (do not let brown). With blender running, pour in hot butter in a very thin stream, blending until sauce is thick and emulsified. Transfer to a measuring cup and cover until service. Heat it back up in the microwave for about 30 seconds (low power setting) before serving if needed.
What to do if your sauce breaks (the fat separates from the rest of the sauce or it starts to look curdled): you need to add a fresh egg yolk to rebind the liquids. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon cold water. Pour your sauce back into the blender and mix at low speed. With blender running, slowly pour the new egg yolk/water mixture into the sauce. Mix for 10-15 seconds and just like that, it should be fixed. Heat it back up gently in the microwave (low power setting) right before serving.
Make the poached eggs: Bring the water to 200˚F or 90˚C and add the salt and vinegar. Crack your eggs one by one in a small bowl first (make sure not to break the yolk or you can’t use the egg!) then gently slide the entire egg into the water to poach. You can add the four eggs to the pot to cook them all together. 3 ½ minutes will cook the eggs until the edges of the yolk are cooked and the center is still runny. Fish the eggs out one by one with a slotted spoon and reserve in a small plate.
Assemble your Eggs Benedict: Take your English muffins and warm plates out of the oven. Place one slice of prosciutto on each muffin, then divide the asparagus stalks in four portions, placing them over the prosciutto. Top with a poached egg and a generous spoonful of hollandaise sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced chives and freshly ground black pepper.
For more tips on how to poach eggs to perfection and for great recipes that include poached eggs, download the full Daring Cooks challenge PDF here.