Breakfast/brunch for one, or more
Q: Do you like breakfast/brunch?
A: Of course! Who doesn’t?
In my experience, no other meals evoke the same response to the question “Do you like…” as do breakfast and brunch. True, you will on occasion run across “I’m not a morning person and I don’t eat breakfast”, but an overwhelming majority will usually reply that they love breakfast or bruch. I’m in the latter category, and when shared with friends and family, breakfast and brunch just get the day off on a high that will generally take you through a good portion of your day. In fact, on the days that start with a good breakfast or brunch it’s not difficult to eat very little the rest of the day, even at dinnertime. It’s a great way to control your weight in addition to improving your outlook on life.
Other than the time of day, and the general conclusion that brunch features more and sometime heavier eating options, I tend to treat breakfast and brunch the same, at least in “menu” format. I’m not to the point where I add the beef or pork tenderloin sliders you often find when you have brunch out. My recipes, tips, and suggestions will reflect that.
One of my favorite brunch meals is pictured – eggs Benedict, with sautéed asparagus and sliced Roma tomato. The two elements that usually give the most trouble are the poached eggs and the Hollandaise sauce. Let’s tackle the sauce, first.
The basics for Hollandaise sauce are egg yolk, lemon juice, water, salt, and butter. I’ve toyed around with several recipes and methods, both hand and blender techniques. The easiest and most rewarding for me is the One-Pot Hollandaise Sauce recipe I picked up during Boot Camp at The Chopping Block in Chicago. Its equipment requirements are easy – a saucier and a flat whisk.
INGREDIENTS (for about 1 cup)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stick butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces (those lines on the wrapper)
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a slope-sided saucier. For the indicated quantity of ingredients, a 2-qt saucier is quite sufficient; use a 1-1/2 qt if you are halving the recipe for just one person.
Place the saucier over low heat, and start whisking. Adjust so that the temperature is just above the melting point of the butter.
Continue whisking until the sauce begins to thicken and is steaming, about 5 minutes. At this point the mixture will be steaming slightly, and your whisk will leave a trail in the mixture.
Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the cayenne, if using, and the salt and pepper.
Serve warm, and be sure there is enough bread to sop up any extra once the eggs Benedict are gone. It’s also great over steamed asparagus.
It seems there are just about as many ways that guarantee a “perfect” poached egg as there are writers on the subject. Why should I be any different? I’ve tried egg poaching pans, egg poaching pods, and a couple other devices, all guaranteeing the perfect end product. Then I went to Boot Camp at The Chopping Block in Chicago, and all that changed. Here’s how I do it now, and it’s not failed me.
Put your pan/pot of water on; add a couple of capfuls of white vinegar; bring the water to a boil, then cut the heat back to a simmer.
For appearances sake, I strain my eggs using a silicone strainer spoon with lots of small holes in it; you can also use a fine mesh strainer, but be sure that it’s smooth enough that you can tip the eggs out of it without breaking the yolks. Crack each egg into the strainer, and let all of the loose whites run through, leaving you with the egg yolk and a sac of egg white that holds together quite well. This will go a long way toward eliminating those pesky and unsightly loose threads of white.
Tip the egg into a small glass bowl, leaving it there until you’re ready to poach it.
Using a small spatula or slotted spoon, create a vortex in the simmering water; then pour the egg from the glass bowl into the center of the vortex.
At this point you can time the process if you want; I’ve found it much easier to just observe, after a minute or two lifting the egg up so that it’s visible to check it. Your eye will tell you when the egg looks like you want a poached egg to look; firm white (with no clear pockets), and a yolk that is visibly still liquid.
Using a slotted spoon, lift the egg out and place it where you want it. Done!!! Repeat for the other eggs you need, and then enjoy. If your pan of water is large enough, you can do up to 3-4 eggs at a time, but I’d recommend a bit of one-at-a-time practice first.
Making Eggs Benedict for more than one? Need to prepare ahead of time? It is possible to make poached eggs ahead of time – 2-3 days, as a matter of fact. Here’s how (with a tip of the hat to Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats, and author of The Food Lab. Before you start poaching, prepare a large glass bowl with cool water and some ice cubes – an ice bath. As you take the poached eggs out of the simmering water, immediately place them in the ice bath. This will stop the cooking process, and the eggs will sink to the bottom, away from the air. Cover the bowl, then put the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. To serve, take the eggs from the cold water and put them in warm, like max 140 degrees, water (hot tap water works well) and leave them for about 10 minutes. Place, drench with Hollandaise, and take a bow! You’re a hero!!!