I believe that breakfast (and specifically brunch) should be a check mark on any chef’s list of achievements, even though it is rather unpleasant and certainly not glamorous. The main issues I always had with brunch are as follows:
- It’s usually on Sunday morning, which is also the morning after the busiest night of the week. The kitchen crew is already beaten down, and the chef often has a hard time keeping everyone up and running as they should.
- Brunch is only served once a week. Specific items need to be on-hand for that morning, so if you have ingredients left over, it is a task to get them sold. This can wreak havoc on a chef’s ability to control costs.
- About half of your customers are there to eat, the rest are just there for the booze, or more specifically some kind of fruit juice mixed with some kind of libation.
- Everyone else is having fun, why can’t I?
Eggs Benedict is pretty much always part of the Sunday brunch offerings. Classic Eggs Benedict consists of the following: a split English muffin, ham, 2 poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. There are several stories that claim the true origin of this dish, but this is my favorite:
Lemuel Benedict, a New York stock broker, wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894. Lemuel was feeling the effects of the previous night’s boozy celebrations and wanted to find a cure for his hangover.
He ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a ‘hooker’ of hollandaise sauce.”
The Matre d’ liked the idea so much, shortly afterwards the hotel created their own version substituting an English muffin for toast and grilled ham for bacon.
This dish has been altered, butchered and fragmented in breakfast havens throughout the USA for decades.
Since the introduction of hollandaise sauce powdered mixes, you never really know what you are going to get. I was once served Eggs Benedict with one poached egg on a piece of toast, and the other on half of a biscuit. The sauce was something I never could quite identify, but I suspect it was some kind of yellow gravy.
Hollandaise sauce mixes were created because Hollandaise sauce can be tricky.
It must be kept in a very small temperature range, too cold and it will become solid, too hot and the butter will separate from the eggs.
If you time it properly, you can have the sauce ready with the rest of breakfast. If not, I recommend making it first and then holding it in a preheated thermos.
Here is my version of Eggs Benedict: the hollandaise sauce has a smoky flavor and the addition of wild Alder wood gives this dish a Northwest flair.
Hollandaise Sauce Ingredients:
- ½ cup Northwest Blend Smoking Chips
- 2 Sticks Butter, unsalted
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 1 Pinch Salt
Eggs Benedict Ingredients:
- 2 Wildwood Grilling Alder Wraps
- 6 oz. Wild Sockeye Salmon
- 6 Asparagus Spears
- 1 Bell Pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 pinch each Pepper and Kosher Salt
Hollandaise Sauce Directions:
- Before making the sauce, the butter needs to be clarified and smoked (it’s easier than it sounds).
- Gently melt the butter and let it stand for a couple of minutes. The butter fat will float to the top and the milk solids (cloudy white substance) will sink to the bottom.
- Carefully pour off the fat and reserve, discard the solids.
- Next, place the clarified butter in a shallow pan and set it in a hot smoker for 1 hour. This can also be done with a smoking gun.
- Set the butter aside and keep it warm.
- Add a couple of cups of water to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
- Place the egg yolks and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl and set it on top of the simmering water. Constantly whisk the egg yolks until they become pale and double in volume, this will only take about 2 minutes. The key here is to not overheat the eggs and remove them from the heat before they begin to curdle and appear scrambled.
- Off the heat slowly add the warm smoked butter while continuing to whisk. The sauce should look smooth, glossy and pourable.
- Add a pinch of salt to season.
Eggs Benedict Directions:
- Preheat your grill to 450°F and soak the wraps in warm water for several minutes.
- Cut the salmon into six 1 oz. cubes, trim the asparagus and slice the peppers.
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Divide the ingredients between the 2 wraps, roll them up and secure with twine.
- Set on the grill, close the lid, and cook for 10 minutes.
- Bring a pot of water to a gentle simmer. Add the eggs one at a time and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. If your pot is not large enough, you can do this in batches.
- To serve, open the Alder packages and tear off the outer strips, place 2 eggs on each wrap and top with smoked hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately.
So, there you have it, my heavily altered version of the classic American Eggs Benedict. Although a far cry from Lemuel Benedict’s attempt at a hangover cure, this dish is delicious and will probably taste and look better than anything served at your local diner.
*Keep a spray bottle of water handy in case of flare-ups.
Matt worked his first kitchen job in the country of Malta at the age of 15. He has worked as a restaurant Chef in Arizona, Maine, Spain, the UK, Oregon and finally North Idaho. Now the Executive Chef at Wildwood Grilling, he thoroughly enjoys his day job.