Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eggs "Benedict" with Asparagus and Prosciutto

While in Aruba I got in a conversation with friends about how I am intimidated by hollandaise.  I'm not really sure at this point why I stay away from hollandaise in my kitchen, I just know that I have yet to make eggs benedict at home, because it would require me to make hollandaise sauce.  I've always heard that hollandaise is hard to make - it breaks, you have to whisk it by hand over a saucepan of gently simmering water, etc.  Then I realized, if you're going the home cook version, you can also make hollandaise in a blender.  Genius!  But when I told Alex that we were going to make the hollandaise for our eggs benedict in a blender he shamed me into doing it the old-fashioned way.  Well, really he shamed himself into it because I refused to be the one standing over the saucepan of gently simmering water whisking away.  Instead, Alex had to whisk the eggs into submission while I commentated.  And for the record, the first batch of hollandaise we made broke.  So we had to start over.  See?  I had reason to stay away - hollandaise is finicky!  But in the end, particularly once you know what you are looking for, it's not hard to make.  Basically, we learned that the hollandaise goes from thin, to thick, to thickest - almost the consistency of aioli or homemade mayonnaise.  Stop once you get to that really thick point, otherwise your sauce might break and end up a buttery, liquidy mess.  It just requires some knowledge, babysitting and arm muscle.

I decided to top my eggs benedict with asparagus and prosciutto rather than smoked salmon, or the more traditional ham.  And I decided to serve it on toasted crusty sourdough from Amy's Breads.  Alex and I both agreed that we loved the sourdough in our version of eggs benedict.  It soaked up the runny egg yolks and the hollandaise sauce without getting mushy, and it gave the dish great flavor.  Also, this hollandaise was lighter (overall it was just less heavy and rich) and more lemon-y than most I have tasted.  I know a lot of recipes call for either vinegar or lemon juice and I have to say that with the asparagus I loved the noticeable lemon flavor of our hollandaise.  The proscuitto added just the right note of rich, salty, porky goodness - without it I think the dish would have been missing something.  As much as I loved this dish, I think we will probably only make it once every 6 months or so because it requires so many pots and pans and a good amount of effort.  But it was delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Eggs Benedict with Asparagus and Prosciutto

2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of ground white pepper
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
4 eggs
2 slices sourdough bread, cut about 1-inch thick and toasted
4 slices prosciutto
10 asparagus spears, woody ends removed, poached in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, or until tender (we did this in the water that we were simmering for the hollandaise sauce) and then shocked in ice water

Whisk 2 egg yolks and lemon juice in medium metal bowl.  Gradually whisk in melted butter.  Set bowl over medium saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and instant-read thermometer registers 140°F for 3 minutes, about 5 minutes total. Remove bowl from over water; whisk in last 3 ingredients. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring a shallow saucepan of approximately 2 inches of water to a gentle simmer on the stove top.  Add white vinegar.  Crack eggs into individual ramekins or other small bowls/coffee cups., making sure there is no eggshell in with the eggs.  Pour eggs gently into simmering water one at a time.  Cook until whites are just set, about 2 minutes.  Yolks will still be very runny.  Remove eggs from simmering water with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towel-lined plates.  You can prepare the poached eggs in advance and keep them in a bowl of cold water, instead of paper towels and then reheat in simmering water for 20-30 seconds.

Prepare eggs benedict by placing slices of bread on a plate, and topping each slice of bread with 2 prosciutto slices, 5 asparagus spears, 2 poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce to taste.

Serve immediately.

Blender Hollandaise
House & Garden
February 1962
Available on Epicurious

3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp cream
1 cup (1/2 pound) melted sweet butter, heated until bubbling but not brown
1 tbsp, plus 1 tsp lemon juice

Place egg yolks, salt, pepper and cream in blender, blend for a few seconds at high speed until you have a smooth frothy mixture. Still at high speed, start adding hot butter in a thin, steady stream, not too slowly. As you add butter, the sauce should thicken. When half the butter has been added, add lemon juice. Continue blending until all butter is used.

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