Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chemistry Adventures: Make-Ahead Eggs Benedict

As I've probably mentioned countless times before, a well-made Eggs Benedict is one of my favorite meals... Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner... Any time of day is a good time for Eggs Benedict. The drawback of making this dish is all of the work that has to be done last-minute. The eggs must be perfectly poached. The hollandaise must be made and carefully kept warm (without breaking the sauce and ruining everything...). It's a hassle, and usually leaves the kitchen a mess from all of the last-minute chaos. I thought this was a necessary evil, until I was flipping through one of my new favorite cookbooks and discovered that there is, in fact, a better way...
The book that made this meal possible, and that I am currently totally in love with, is Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot.
Many things in this book had me smiling and thinking to myself, "Wow. I have to try that!" but it was the combination of the words "Reheatable" and "Hollandaise" that blew my mind. Maybe I'm just a weirdo, but this was pretty much a dream come true. All it takes is a batch of hollandaise and one very cool chemical.

Today's Chemicals:
  • Methocel LV
To stick with what's in the book, I made a Brown Butter Hollandaise. This recipe is pretty much your standard blender hollandaise (which I am a huge fan of), except using brown butter and with the addition of some lime pickle to add spice and interest. I used store-bought lime pickle because I'm still not up to the task of spending a long time in the kitchen, and I only used half of the suggested amount since I was unsure about how the store-bought compared to the lime pickle recipe in the book.
Everything but the butter goes into the blender until well-combined, and the butter is browned on the stove top. After cooling for a couple minutes, the brown butter is drizzled into the blender with the motor running on low, and you have yourself some tasty Brown Butter Hollandaise. You can use this straight-away, or you can continue on to make it reheatable and use it a couple hours or a couple days later.
Methocel LV (1% by weight relative to the total weight of all other ingredients) is dissolved in boiling water, then drizzled into the hollandaise while the blender is running at low speed. That's it. Now the sauce is cooled over an ice bath to a temperature of 50°F, then chills in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
When the time comes, simply reheat over low heat, whisking occasionally and never allowing the sauce to come to a boil. (Side note: I totally let my sauce come to a boil because my eggs were done and caused me to turn my back at just the wrong moment... Turns out a little vigorous whisking off the heat gets this sauce back to a creamy, awesome consistency no problem... Much more forgiving than a normal hollandaise, which is pretty much forever broken once it breaks...)
Speaking of eggs, I have been trying for a while now to achieve the perfect slow-cooked egg. I've done the Momofuku method and a few others (standard protocol is 63-64°C for 50-60 minutes), but the finished product has never been perfect. That all changed today with help (again) from Ideas in Food. The authors bump up the temperature to 75°C and drop the cooking time to 13 minutes. These eggs can be made ahead, chilled in an ice bath, and rewarmed when it is time to serve.
For the first time, I finally met the perfect egg. Check it out:
My previous slow-cooked eggs featured a very runny yolk that was almost raw. I like a runny yolk, but raw yolk isn't my favorite. This yolk, as you can see above, features an oozy, custardy texture that totally rocked my world. Never before has an egg made me so happy. It's just... Wow. So, I prepped the sauce and eggs in the morning (and had a couple perfect eggs for breakfast to reward myself for the hard work...), got everything cleaned up and put away, then had only to reheat the eggs and the hollandaise and toast an English muffin to produce a fantastic Eggs Benedict meal with no hassle.
This is the best consistency I've had on a hollandaise, and I love that you can get it nice and hot without risk of breaking it. (I made this batch of Eggs Benedict with (Costco) crab cakes instead of Canadian bacon because I was feeling festive, in case you're wondering what's in the picture.) Imagine making hollandaise and prepping eggs the day before you wanted to savor a nice brunch, then being able to roll out of bed and have this kick-ass meal on the table in the time it takes to make your morning espresso. Perfect.

Will I Make This Again?: Yes. Over and over and over again.
Was it Worth the Work?: Totally. A little prep in advance has a huge payoff when mealtime rolls around. I think Methocel LV may be my new favorite chemical... at least until I play with the next one...

1 comment:

Doni said...

Still think I'd like to cook with some chemicals.