Monday, August 31, 2009

Eggs Benedict: Bacon Grease and the Brunch of Champions

We decided to mix things up a bit last week by doing a brunch instead of a lunch. Mike wanted to get things moving because he would spending the rest of the day with his father, ripping up the old damp floor boards in one room his new basement (which, he reports, he hopes to convert into a walk-in cooler once it is waterproofed). Indeed, it served as the final such Sunday farmer’s market meal in the old apartment. We hope to reorient ourselves to the Takoma Park farmer’s market and the bounty of fall fruits and vegetables in the next few weeks.

The idea this week was a riff on a brunch staple: Eggs Benedict. We opted to go all-American, though, replacing the traditional English muffin and Canadian bacon with a local whole wheat bread (a think loaf with a cross-hatched top whose label read: Multigrain Bruschetta) and some thick-sliced bacon. We also slipped in some homegrown tomatoes for a bit of bright contrast. And, just for Dan, we made a batch of creamy, heartstoppingly rich Hollandaise sauce.

Farmer's Market Booty
Multigrain Bruschetta (Bonaparte Breads)
Farm Fresh Eggs

Pantry Staples
Black Pepper
Distilled Vinegar

Bacon grease is your friend. And here’s why…
To get started, we fried the bacon, three thick slices from Niman Ranch (which Mike had left over from the previous week’s tarte flambĂ©e). Once the bacon was crispy, we used the drippings to fry two Texas-Toast-thick slices of the multigrain bruschetta (Is there anything that isn't improved by some bacon drippings? Mike says beer, but notes that Brooklyn Brewery is nonetheless putting out a bacon flavored barleywine shortly… I refuse to be the guinea pig for that one!). Once the bread got a little color we moved it to the toaster oven, on low heat, to get it out of the way.

With the pan vacant we cut thick slices of a couple tomatoes, freshly picked that morning from the planters on my back porch, and added them with a little olive oil to the pan (sadly, the bread soaked up a lot of the bacon grease while pan-toasting). The tomatoes are an heirloom variety that never gets past a reddish-pink, but they are very solid and sweet.

I bought the tomato plants as four seedlings at the beginning of the summer when I only had $2 to spend at the Adams Morgan farmer’s market. Sadly it took considerably more than that to purchase the necessary potters, soil, stakes, and such, though they have done a great job producing throughout the summer (and thankfully, the planters and dirt can be reused next summer).

Next, on to the poached eggs! I was particularly wary of this step never having poached an egg and worried that every effort would result in protein-clouded water and broken yolks. Hence, Fearless Mike led the way on this one. We filled a non-stick pan with several inches of water and brought it to a boil. We stirred in a tablespoon of distilled vinegar, which lowers the pH and encourages the proteins in the white to set quickly. Once the water was boiling, we turned off the heat, and gently poured the eggs into the pan (this is easiest if you crack them into cups or small bowls first). After 4 minutes with the cover on they were nice and oozy, but not too runny.

Before the poached eggs, we actually started the Hollandaise sauce, the recipe for which we took from Good Eats, which, though it sounded easy enough, caused quite a bit of panic as we worked to time the egg poaching and Hollandaise whisking so that neither was done too soon or late.

For the sauce, you whisk the three egg yolks with a bit of water for as long as it takes for your arm to feel as if it fall off (weakling that I am, this only took about three to four minutes). When the yolks will become light yellow and frothy, add a touch of sugar (the small amount helps to fight curdling by getting between the proteins… though we still ended up with a few tiny yellow dots in ours).

Heat the yolk mixture in a double boiler until it begins to thicken, then slowly add 1.5 sticks of butter whisking constantly. Once all the butter is incorporated into the emulsion, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

Finally Mike assisted in a quick assembly: layering a slice of the toast with bacon, tomato slices, a poached egg, and finally a “drizzle” of the Hollandaise (we really just spooned the stuff on, and it was wonderful).

The meal was delightful and rich, salty from the bacon, and tart form the tomatoes, crunchy bacon-y toast… once the stress over trying to cook five different things at once wore off. The ingredients all played very well together and the rich butter sauce really helped to bring all of the elements together. Our only mistake was starting the toast a bit too early, and placing it in the toaster oven to keep it warm, so it ended up a bit on the dry side (nothing a little dip of Hollandaise couldn't fix, though—shameless!).

In the absence of pie (and in lieu of nutritional content of our meal), we rounded out the hefty meal with a couple of sweet, simple slices of cantaloupe.

To compliment all these elements, we went with a bottle of the Lemon Pepper Single we brewed a few months back. It has really dried out since Mike reviewed it, and the carbonation has come around. The subtle lemon flavor matched well with the Hollandaise and the crispness fended off otherwise rich, fatty flavors.


Seawolf said...

Yum! You can come cook for me anytime!!


Dan said...

Unfortunately, A Brown would dismiss your double broiler as a "unitasker"! I always just use a boil over a couple inches of boiling/simmering water. For a little interest next time, try some fresh herbs (tarragon, chives in particular) in the Hollandaise.
Don't worry about mayo, it's far easier to make in a food processor.

Fermentationette (Audrey) said...

An herbed Hollandaise sounds really tasty... if we can just come up with another dish to use it with :)