Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dark Days #13: Eggs Benedict

I am pretty certain that despite my pervading love of all things food, my favorite meal is breakfast.

I am a fan of pretty much all of it (except maybe waffles): yogurt, hard boiled eggs, granola, bacon, toast, soft boiled eggs, grapefruit juice, pancakes, sausage, jam, omeletes, sweet rolls, scrambled eggs, frittattas, hash browns, eggs sunny-side-up, pie,eggs over-easy, oatmeal, canadian bacon, orange juice, muffins of all types...

...and of course, the coffee.

I could eat/drink these things three meals a day.

And going out for breakfast? Mmm... even better yet! Not only is breakfast my favorite meal, it's my all time favorite thing to go out  for too. We don't do it nearly often enough.

That said though, I have one simple rule for eating out, and it applies to breakfast joints too: don't order something that's easy for you to make for yourself at home. If I'm going to enjoy the treat of having someone else cook and clean for me, I'm at least going to make it be for something that I can't (or won't) make for myself.

Thus, my most frequently ordered out-to-breakfast food is Eggs Benedict.

I've never made them myself. Ever, even once.

Until this past weekend.

Nothing like jumping in to something big when you have company over, right?  Yup, I agree. So I decided to make Sunday brunch for the family - hash browns and eggs benny. How hard could it be?


At least I thought to attempt poaching eggs for the first time ever before the big day, so that only the hollandaise and the english muffins would be "first time ever" when served to my parents and mother-in-law!  Ah yes... the learning curve!!

All in all, though it came out OK. Here's what I did:

1. Home Made English Muffins (see recipe below)

2. Hash browns using local potatoes, including beautiful Adirondack Red and Adirondack Blues, and local basil

3. Half the muffins were topped with canadian bacon from The Piggery, and half with steamed local spinach that I picked up from the farmer's market.

4. Poached eggs from our chickens

5. Home Made Hollandaise Sauce with our own eggs, and butter I made from local cream

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • I kept remarkably local on this one: the flour and corn meal in the muffins was from Cayuga Pure Organics / Farmer Ground Flour in Brooktondale / Trumansburg, the butter in the muffins and hollandaise was my own made with cream from Moravia, the bacon from Trumansburg, the potatoes grown in either Moravia (whites) or in Watkins Glen (reds and blues), the basil from here in Ithaca, the eggs from the backyard, and the spinach from a small town about 45 minutes south of here, purchased at the farmer's market.
  • Non-local ingredients included the lemon juice in the hollandaise, the yeast in the muffins, salt, pepper and the vinegar that I used in the egg poaching water.
  • I learned that there is good reason that I reserve this meal to be eaten when someone else cooks it for me.
  • I learned that poached eggs are very difficult to make 10 at a time.
  • I learned that hollandaise sauce should be served IMMEDIATELY after serving, or it will separate.
  • I learned that those people who claim if your sauce does separate that you can just "add a little water and whisk, and it will come right back together" are full of whooey.
  • I learned that even separated, hollandaise sauce is just a delightful food.
  • I learned that other than taking a lot of rise time, home made English Muffins are really easy to make, taste fantastic, and best of all, are loved by the Little Bug!

One other mini-tradition we have in this house, is to celebrate Valentine's Day with a chocolate chip cheesecake, topped with raspberry sauce. Sometimes, when I'm really motivated, it's even cut into the shape of a heart. This year, I didn't even manage to make it for Valetine's Day, but figured it would be a good way to finish off this already extravagantly rich meal.  Go big or don't go at all, right?!

The ingredients in the cheesecake were not local (except for the frozen berries I used to make the sauce), but it was deeelicious!

Finally, in other local news, the Ithaca Winter Farmer's Market will not be held during the month of March, so this weekend is the last market (boo). That will make the final six or so Dark Days Challenge meals particularly... challenging. Fortunately, I have a few things left up my proverbial cooking sleeve that I want to try. These final meals might be light on the veges, but I hope they'll stay as tasty as this past one! The usual summer market is slated to open in early April.

Also, we are not getting my hoped-for rain today. The weather has stayed cold, so no maple sap flow is happening yet. The forecast is for things to warm up by Monday, so our fingers are crossed.

Finally, we Dark Days participants were notified recently (in case we hadn't noticed!) that the offical recaps are not going to happen this year. The host (very smartly) decided that things were too chaotic for her and something in her life had to give. Can't give anyone a hard time about that.

There does seem to be a few of us still cooking and writing about weekly SOLE meals though, and there is chatter of trying to find a way to link all our blogs together to make things easier to read. I'll keep you "posted" if something like that happens (ba dump dump).

If you're interested, here's the recipe I used for the muffins:

English Muffins (from Rose Levy Berenbaum's the bread bible; makes 10 3" rounds)

  1. Make the dough sponge.  Whisk together for two minutes, incorporating air, until the consistency of a thick batter:  1c plus 1 1/5 T (5.5oz) unbleached all purpose flour, 3/4 c (6.2oz) water at room temperature (70° to 90° F), 1 T honey,  1/2 t instant yeast.
  2. Sprinkle on top the dough sponge the following flour mixture:  3/4 c plus 1 1/2 T (5.5 oz) all purpose flour, 2 T (0.7 oz) dry milk, 1/2 t instant yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 1-4 h at room temp or 8-24 h in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 1 h before proceeding.
  3. After this first "rise", add the 3 T softened unsalted butter and 1 1/4 t salt, and stir until all flour is moistened. Knead dough in bowl until it comes together, then knead another 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, adding up to 1/4 c additional flour if necessary. Dough will be very sticky. Cover with an inverted bowl and let sit 20 minutes.
  4. Knead another 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. It will still be tacky and you can add more flour if needed. Try to add as little as possible.
  5. Spray or rub the dough with oil, cover and let rise another 1 1/2 or until doubled in size.
  6. With oiled fingers, deflate dough and knead lightly. Oil, cover and refrigerate to rise at least one more hour (up to 24).
  7. Sprinkle sheet pan lightly with corn meal (1/3 c or less). On lightly floured counter, roll out dough to be 8"x12"x about 1/2" thick. Cut out rounds with 3 1/2" biscuit cutter (rounds will shrink after cutting). Place these on the sheet pan and let rise until 3/4" high, about 45 minutes. 
  8. The original recipe says here to roll up remaining dough and refrigerate again for an hour before cutting remaining muffins. I just re-rolled it immediately so all the muffins were done at the same time and it worked fine.
  9. Butter a skillet (I used electric, heated to 275°F), add muffins, and cook 10 minutes or until brown. Flip and cook until second side is browned (inside temperature 190°F).
  10. Split with two forks to get the nooks and crannies, serve immediately lightly toasted with butter, or with eggs benedict. Or store them in paper up to 24 h or frozen for supposedly up to 3 months.


  1. OMG, those look divine. How very cool that you made everything from scratch (local scratch at that)!

    Breakfast is my favorite meal too--especially for dinner!

    Glad to see you're sticking with the challenge.

  2. Oh my gosh! You are a rock star in the kitchen! I'm going to make those english muffins!
    Love your blog,


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