Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Move Over Ham...It's Shrimp Benedict and the BBC on Historic Food

Don't tell my husband. But I just can't eat another bit of pork for a while. However, I love hollandaise sauce with an unhealthy affection, and I like making it for Sunday brunch when we're all at the lake. I dig seafood for breakfast, and one of my favorite diners does an Eggs Benedict with super-spicy, blackened shrimp, so I thought I'd try to recreate it.

The main thing about making a decent Hollandaise is the prep work. You have to have your mise en place squared away because you can't be putting down your whisk to go in search of white pepper, lest your yolk curdle or the sauce break. So go ahead and juice your lemon, melt your butter, separate your eggs, get out your seasoning, etc.... You'll need a melted stick of butter, three egg yolks (save the whites for an egg-white omelet tomorrow--your cholesterol will need it), about 2 T fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt, white pepper, and cayenne pepper (optional). I didn't salt my Hollandaise as much as usual because I wanted to use blackening spice on my shrimp, which is already pretty salty.
Mise en place. 
Next, get your double boiler going. I just use two pots that fit inside one another. I put a dish cloth in the bottom of the bigger one and then fill the big pot with just enough water than it barely reaches the bottom of the smaller pot. Plot the small pot into the big pot, and warm both over a medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low before you begin making your sauce. A whisk is of vital importance when making Hollandaise.
Rigged double boiler.

Whisk your eggs before you put them in the pot. Get them creamy. Then put them in your warm pot, quickly adding about 1 1/2 T of butter and whisking constantly to keep your yolk from becoming scrambled eggs. If they're solidifying too fast, pull your small pot out of the double boiler and lower your heat. Using the double boiler is a great way to control heat, so don't be afraid to adjust as necessary. Add about half your lemon juice and half seasoning and whisk a bunch more. Drizzle in your butter slowly, stopping about halfway to add the rest of your lemon juice, whisking all the time. After all your butter is added in and you keep whisking, your sauce should begin to look like the below picture. When it does, taste it and adjust the seasonings. You should wait to make your Hollandaise just before you're ready to serve it, as it doesn't sit very well for very long. If it does break (starts to look lumpy and curdled or separated), try adding ice-cold water a tablespoon at a time, whisking like mad, to correct it. 

I did sort of break my own rule and poached eggs while I was making my sauce. Poaching eggs is really not as hard as you may think. Get a good-sized pot (like a large saucepan) of boiling water going. ADD VINEGAR, about 3 T. This is a crucial step, as the egg whites will not coagulate correctly unless you add white vinegar to the water. Then I usually bring the water back down to a very gentle boil. When you're ready, break an egg into a small bowl. Give the water a gentle stir, and while the water is swirling, slide the egg in. It takes longer than you would think to cook an egg this way. But one good thing is that you can cook your eggs just before the sauce and put them under a warmer to until they're needed. 
Pretty hollandaise, thank goodness.
I had a hot pan (I'll confess, a hot pan of bacon grease) waiting for my shrimp. As soon as my sauce was ready, I threw my seasoned shrimp in. I was not bold enough with my blackening spice, sadly, because I was afraid to get them too spicy or salty for my mom, but they were still good. Medium-sized shrimp literally take about three minutes to cook. My bread was toasting in a low-heat oven, I had already made a huge plate of bacon already for my husband so he didn't stage a protest, and my mom was cutting fruit.

As soon as the shrimp were ready, it was time for assembly! Buttered, toasted bread, a layer of shrimp, a jiggly poached egg, and then sauce! I should have added a pinch of paprika for color, but ah, well. A food stylist, I am not.
So, really, the moral to the story is a) be prepared before you begin cooking. Get all your equipment and ingredients prepped before you begin, and there will be many fewer disasters, and b) don't be scared of Hollandaise! It's really not hard, and even if it's a wreck the first time, just try again. It's too rich and fatty for regular consumption (in my case--you may have mad metabolism), but it's such a nice treat, and it's pretty versatile. Traditional eggs Benedict are made up of a toasted English muffin, a slice of ham, a poached egg, and sauce. But you can change it up however you like. Hollandaise is also a traditional accompaniment to salmon and asparagus. Try it and serve it on anything you like!

Just for fun, I've been watching a HYSTERICAL new show on BBC through Hulu this week. It's called The Supersizers Go... and is about a female entertainer and a male food critic in England living (and mostly eating) as though they are living in the Victorian, Elizabethan, Restoration, etc...periods. The show is really well done because it's incredibly historically accurate in terms of dress, manners, past times, and especially about the food of the period. It's amazing how much really heavy protein and booze people consumed during these times in history (except during World War Two with all the rationing). It's sort of History Channel meets My Drunk Kitchen. Well worth the time investment, if you're into food, history, or drunken humor.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 t. salt
  • pinch white pepper
  • cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
Whisk the egg yolks before you put them in the double broiler. Get them creamy. Then put them in your warm pot, quickly adding about 1 1/2 T of butter and whisking constantly.

If they're solidifying too fast, pull your small pot out of the double boiler and lower your heat. Add about half the lemon juice and half the seasonings as you whisk. Drizzle in the rest of the butter slowly, stopping about halfway to add the rest of the lemon juice, whisking all the time. 

When your sauce is finished, turn off the heat and remove the double boiler from the hot burner. Leave your double boiler assembled to keep your sauce warm.