Eggs Benedict - named after a 19th century Wall Street stock broker who ordered it at the Waldorf Hotel as a hangover cure - is a recipe guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of even the most accomplished home chef. Combining hollandaise sauce, with its notoriously fragile emulsion of butter and egg yolks, and poached eggs in a dish best served at the very time of day when most of us are least likely to be at our best is, literally, a recipe for disaster.
Except it isn’t. I’ll show you how to make a foolproof hollandaise sauce AND how to poach the perfect egg. Together with a lightly toasted muffin and some good thick ham you’ve got the perfect start to the day after the night before.
How to make the hollandaise sauce
1. Make a bain-marie. This is simply a heatproof mixing bowl sitting on a saucepan full of gently simmering water.
2. Beat the egg yolks with half the cream, the vinegar, and the salt.
3. Pour the egg mixture into the bain-marie and whisk while adding the butter one chunk at a time. Wait until each piece of butter has melted and been absorbed before adding another.
4. Remove the bain-marie from the heat from time to time to let it cool. You can, however, keep adding the butter and whisking during this cooling-off period.
5. When all the butter has been absorbed you can add the remaining cream.
6. Keep warm, stirring occasionally while you poach the eggs.
Poaching the eggs
1. The secret to poaching an egg is to use the very freshest eggs you can. A fresh egg will have a proud, pert white and yolk when it’s cracked open, something that is easy to see if you crack it onto a saucer or small plate while a stale egg will be watery. The best and freshest eggs can be found at your local farm shop or farmers’ market.
2. Crack your eggs, putting one on each saucer. Set a wide, shallow pan of boiling water on a very low heat. Gently slide the eggs into the water one at a time.
3. Leave them to simmer very gently for 3-5 minutes depending on how you like them. You can test them from time to time by lifting them gently out of the water with a slotted spoon. Press the white and if it’s firm they are ready.
4. Meanwhile, toast your muffins.
5. Assemble by placing two muffin halves on a warmed dinner plate. Add a slice of ham to each and gently add a poached egg on top. Finally, spoon over a generous quantity of hollandaise sauce and serve immediately.
You can swap the ham for crispy streaky bacon if you prefer, and for a vegetarian version use cooked spinach instead of the ham to make eggs Florentine. Eggs Hemingway is made with smoked salmon instead of ham, while eggs Mornay uses a cheese sauce instead of hollandaise.
Hollandaise sauce doesn’t keep, so you’ll need to use it all within an hour or so of making it I’m afraid. However, you can also use it over asparagus or poached salmon.
Find more brunch and breakfast ideas in our breakfast recipe section.