Sometimes I just get the urge to cook something fancy. This morning it was breakfast. I had had a long week and my husband and I happened to have the same day off, which never happens, so I made brunch. One of our favorite brunch items is eggs benedict. It’s a classic that has everything you need: toast, soft poached eggs, some kind of meat, maybe a vegetable, and a nice rich sauce. Of course, I don’t keep the classical eggs benedict ingredients on hand so I had to improvise.
I picked the first of my spring arugula. The leaves are still tender and delicate, not too peppery. It’s the first batch I planted and it’s just now ready, that’s how far behind we are here in Colorado. I had a little rye bread and some smoked salmon. I had only three eggs. There are two of us and I could have made us each one egg and used the other for hollandaise, but I honestly didn’t want to make hollandaise – it was breakfast, I was home, and it was my day off. So, I rummaged through the fridge to find a substitute, and what did I find? Crème fraîche. I thought that would fit the bill, it’s creamy and rich and it has a wonderful silky texture. So I took the crème fraîche, some fresh chives from the garden, chopped them and mixed it all together = instant hollandaise!
The key to poaching eggs is to have the water at a bare simmer; all you should see before you put those eggs in is steam and slow, small bubbles – no rolling boil! I put my water on to poach the eggs. Shallow pans are best. I took a 2 – 1/2 quart sauce pan and filled it about 2 inches deep, then added two table spoons of white vinegar to help the egg whites set. I cracked my eggs in and just let them sink to the bottom, hence the shallow pan. Sometimes they want to stick to the bottom of the pan, but for the most part they sit right where they should and hold their shape. It takes about five minutes to cook a soft poached egg.
I toasted the rye bread and got ready to assemble. I placed a handful of baby arugula on top of each piece of toast, then the smoked salmon and the poached eggs. Lastly I put the crème fraîche on top, but since it’s cold and doesn’t want to melt all over the eggs I popped each one under the broiler for 30 seconds, just long enough to melt the crème fraîche into a thick rich sauce. And with that I had impromptu eggs benedict! For the rest of the meal we enjoyed our eggs benedict with caviar, fresh squeezed orange juice and champagne. It was a perfect brunch I won’t soon forget!
Chef Sarah Helsley