Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My signature dish for a special lady

A few weeks ago my dad decided to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday by flying me home for the weekend.  I went through this whole charade of telling her what plans I had in San Francisco that weekend, and even threw a little fit about how sad I was that I wasn't going to be home for this milestone birthday.  That morning, the boy picked me up from my 3 hour delayed red eye flight, gave me a warm bed to take a power nap in, and then fixed me breakfast while I showered.  I called my mom post-shower and was all, "Yawnnnn, I just woke up.  The weather looks a little yucky out today (which is was, it was snowing in Boston), so maybe we won't go to Napa."  Then she shared that she had to go to the grocery store... so I said, with a smirk, "Oh, I have to go, too (to get ingredients for the homemade pizza I wanted to make her that night, as it is one of her favorites)... maybe we can go together (little did she know)!"  And we shared a laugh over that.  Now, to prove how linked our brains are, during that chat, she said, "Oh, I am really craving pizza, so I think I am going to get ingredients for that.  It won't be as good as yours, but it will have to do."  I was teeming with excitement!  Another sneaky thing I did was that that morning I texted her saying I had sent her a package, and UPS tracking said it was out for delivery.  So I arrived home, and when I rang the doorbell, apparently my mom went, "Oh, I wonder if that is my package!"  She was SO SURPRISED.  We hugged and laughed and it was wonderful!  I then spent an hour telling her all the lies I had told her the previous week (while grocery shopping and pizza making, of course).  Similarly, we let her know that we were doing a family birthday brunch the following morning at our house, and that I was making eggs benedict and bottomless mimosas.
My wonderful mama, niece, and I on Christmas <3
Eggs benedict was one of those dishes that, a few years ago, I decided I wanted to master.  And I guess the proof is in the pudding (but I thought she was making eggs benedict?  There is pudding involved?  That's weird.), as it is my most highly requested dish.  While I have had some awesome versions in restaurants, I have had some pretty lackluster ones as well.  The recipe is SO SIMPLE and it doesn't take much to make it delicious.  Since this was a special birthday brunch, I went all out.  We are talking homemade english muffins here.  This is something that the boy and I had played around with making a few times before, with a decent amount of success.  But this time I pulled out all the stops to make sure they were perfect.  Homemade english muffins, topped with a perfectly poached egg, spinach and drizzled with fresh hollandaise?  Yes, please!  I will have some right now.

Eggs Benedict
English Muffins
Adapted from Alton Brown
  • 1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Corn meal
  • Non-stick vegetable spray
  • Special equipment: *3-inch metal rings* and electric griddle is helpful

  • 2 egg yolks
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • salt and pepper

Poached eggs
  • Eggs (however many you want to serve)
  • Dash of white vinegar

To make the english muffins:
  1. Dissolve the powdered milk, sugar, salt, and butter in 1/2 hot water, and then cool down with 1/2 cold water. 
    • Alternatively, you can use 1 cup hot water, and then wait for it to cool down... but I am impatient.
  2. Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in a separate bowl and set aside until yeast has dissolved. 
  3. Add the yeast to the milk mixture.
  4. Add the flour and beat thoroughly.  
    • You are going to have a very goopy mixture at this point in time (should she really be using the word goopy to describe something she is trying to make sound appealing?).
  5. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat electric griddle to 300 degrees, spray metal rings, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and baking powder and beat thoroughly.
  8. Place greased metal rings on griddle.
  9. Sprinkle cornmeal on griddle in rings.
  10. Place roughly 2 #20 ice cream scoops of batter into rings.
    • Leave it to Alton Brown to give a measurement like this.  While i'm not sure of the exact volume, it looked like maybe 4-6 tablespoons.
  11. Cover with baking sheet and cook for about 6 minutes.
  12. Remove the lid and flip rings using tongs.
    • This is very important, we don't need any burns here.
  13. Re-cover and cook for an additional 6 minutes.
  14. Put finished english muffins in the oven for about 8 minutes to make sure the insides are nice and cooked.
  15. Allow to rest and cool before serving. 
  16. To fork split, go around the sides of the muffin with the tines of a fork, and then pull apart.
    • I highly recommend delegating this task to a handsome man, I think it made my muffins taste better :-).

To make the hollandaise:
  1. Whisk together egg yolks, water, and lemon juice in small sauce pot.
  2. Put over low heat on the stove and whisk constantly.
  3. Add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time and continue whisking.
  4. Whisk over low heat until the sauce has the consistency of a thin mayonnaise. 
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
To poach the eggs:
  1. Spray the bottom of a skillet with non-stick spray.
  2. Fill with about 2 inches of water and add vinegar.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a calm simmer.
  4. Crack eggs into individual little bowls first.
  5. Bring the lip of the dish into the water and carefully slide each egg into the water.
  6. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes.
  7. Remove eggs carefully with slotted spoon.
*Note: These can be made ahead of time.  As I did on this day.  Just cook them as usual and then transfer immediately to cold water.  At service, plop (again with the unattractive food lingo) them into some simmering water for about 30-45 seconds to reheat.*

Final assembly:
  1. Toast the english muffins.
  2. Top each muffin half with poached egg.
  3. Drizzle with hollandaise.
  4. Watch as guests ooh and ahh.
  5. Enjoy!
Perfect brunch dish.  Roasted potato and tomato recipe to follow.
The whole flight home, I was planning my set up for taking a picture of this dish.  And I gave myself many pep talks about how I was putting so much effort into this, I better take the time to set up a nice photo.  Well, come noon on Sunday with a dining room filled with family and empty stomaches, this was the only photo I snatched before gobbling it up.  Yes, I know my food photography needs improvement.  Or is it my will power.... hmmm.

Please don't be intimidated by the length of this process!  It isn't nearly as complex as it looks and it has a great pay off.  Also, have fun with it!  Some variations I have done are as follows:
  • Replaced the english muffin with naan and drizzled coriander chutney over the hollandaise.
  • California style with avocado and tomato.
  • Added spinach (which I did this day).
  • In a restaurant I recently had it with fried green tomatoes, which was phenomenal. 
Another delayed flight and a few hours later, I found myself back in my house in Berkeley.  I still had hollandaise sauce at the corners of my mouth and my Boston bed was still warm.  It was an absolutely wonderful, albeit whirlwind, weekend home!


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