28 January 2015

Eggs Benedict and Brunch (or is it Blunch?)

The word and the meal brunch originated in England in the late 1800s, when a chap called Guy Beringer wrote an article titled “Brunch: A Plea in which he argued that ...

“By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.”

He was so right and brunch was also adopted enthusiastically by America in the 1930s.

I am something of a brunchologist having been the chef at Tortola’s premier brunch location, The Tamarind Club, for many years under several owners. I even brunch there now when I visit – everyone does and I am flattered that much of my menu is still in use.


the-tamarind-club-suzy-bowler


We are now in the midst of National Breakfast Week and I posted some ideas here. Brunch is a bit more substantial but I think it still counts. One good thing about it is that it’s often preceded by an alcoholic beverage, in fact Guy Beringer even suggested this as a good way to start the meal!  In the islands rum is fairly cheap, cheaper than mixers in many cases so beware.  Where I worked there was drink called “Um” which was not only neat rum but was also free!  If the bartender asked someone what they’d like and they went “um ...” that’s what they got.
   
Anyhoo back to brunch which was, and probably still is, preceded by a complimentary breakfast cocktail either a Passionfruit Mimosa or a Bloody Caesar which sounds yuk but is utterly yum.

mimosa-cocktail


Passionfruit Mimosa

This is just a passion fruit juice version of a normal Mimosa or Buck’s Fizz as it is known here in the UK.  Half fill champagne glasses with chilled passion fruit juice and top up with chilled Champagne or similar.



bloody-caesar-cocktail

Bloody Caesar – for 1

The Clamato juice is the scary bit as it is a mixture of tomato and clam juice but trust me, it works.

30ml vodka
1 or dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 or 2 dashes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
a little salt and pepper
120ml Clamato juice
1 stick celery

~   Rub the rim of a tall glass with a cut lime and then dip it into crunchy sea salt with perhaps a little coarse black pepper too.
~   Fill the glass with ice and then add all the ingredients and stir.
~   Garnish with a pretty stick of celery.


The brunch menu comprised two basic sections, the second page was pretty well normal lunch dishes; about 20 choices such as... 

~  Creamy Seafood Chowder with HOT and POTENT Pepper Wine
~  Roasted Garlic Hummus, Black Olive Salad and Crisp Seeded Pita or lovely
~  Salad of Blue Cheese &Sugar Spiced Walnuts with pear vinaigrette.


The first page was more inclined towards breakfast dishes such as French toast, enormous 3 egg omelettes including the Omelette du Jour, fried breakfast and Eggs Benedict in several version. Here is the actual Benedict section from my final year as chef working there, even if the menu is similar probably the prices are not as it was some while ago.


eggs-benedict-variations

It is Eggs Benedict I wish to have speaks about now.  We served approx. 150 lunches per Sunday, it was not a buffet, the menu was long, it was all cooked fresh to order and about a third of the orders were some form of Eggs Benedict. Luckily amongst the brilliant girls cooking with me in the kitchen (link to Karen’s curry) was my friend Kathy who was always egg lady for Sunday brunch.  Despite the frenzy of the kitchen Kathy used to keep an open book beside her in case she got bored and also, in her spare time, she would often dance a little. She’s very talented! 

So here are some guidelines, recipes and ideas for Eggs Benedict – even though National Breakfast Week will be finished by Sunday I think you could still try them for brunch.

eggs-benedict
The cruxes of the matter are poached eggs, Hollandaise Sauce and English Muffins and the traditional dish also contains Canadian bacon – see below.

Poached Eggs

~   In a small saucepan bring about 8cm/3” lightly salted water to the boil.
~   When the water is at a rolling boil, crack the eggs and gently pour the contents into the water (if you are nervous break the eggs individually into cups and then pour into the water).
~   As soon as the thick fresh white forms a ball around the yolk turn down the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes depending on their size by which time the white will be firm and the yolks will be runny.
~   Scoop out carefully with a holey spoon and hover over the water a few seconds to drain and dry a little before serving.

3 points ...

1.   There is no need for vinegar in the water if the eggs are truly fresh which they should be.
2.   There is also no need for those little cups to cook eggs in or above water. This actually steams the eggs; there’s nothing wrong with them – they’re just not poached!
3.   If you wish to cook the eggs in advance and serve later (which is very useful if cooking for a crowd) then submerge them in cold water as soon as they are cooked and leave them there until needed. Reheat briefly in simmering water.

Easy Hollandaise 

225g butter
3 egg yolks
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt and pepper

~   Gently melt the butter over low heat then turn up the heat bring just to a boil.
~   Set it aside for about 10 minutes during which time the solids will sink to the bottom of the pan.
~   Carefully spoon the skin off from the top of the butter.
~   Put the rest of the ingredients in a liquidiser, processor or bowl with a whisk.
~   Whilst liquidising, processing or whisking pour the butter into the eggs in a slow stream being very careful to leave back all the solids.
~   Taste and season.


Use immediately if possible.  If you need to keep it for a while, the best way to do so is to store it in a vacuum flask.

English Muffins

english-muffins
If you are English these are just called “muffins” but be sure to use the old fashioned flat yeasted bread muffins and not the little sweet cupcakes or things will go sadly wrong! Other breads work well too, toasted ciabatta is good. These are the English muffins I used to use.

Canadian Bacon

This is not bacon as we know it, Jim, or, in fact, as Canadians know it; they call bacon “bacon”! Canadian bacon, if you are lucky, is a fully cooked, cured pork loin, thickly cut. So to save confusion let’s just say that bacon in any form, or ham, works very well in Eggs Benedict.

Other good toppings include ...

~   Smoked salmon – I think this is commonly known as Eggs Royale but we called it Eggs Norwegian.
~   Spinach – Eggs Florentine.
~   Fresh crab or a crabcake is good – dunno what to call it (maybe Norwegian?)
~   Steak is excellent especially if you add a little minced shallot to the lemon juice for a few minutes before making the sauce and then stir in a little chopped tarragon at the end to turn the Hollandaise into Sauce Bearnaise.
~   Asparagus briefly roasted with some Parma ham till the asparagus is al dente and ham crunchy. Ooh lovely.

And so on!

One last thing about brunch, according Punch magazine in 1896 ...

“The combination-meal, when nearer the usual breakfast hour, is ‘brunch,’ and, when nearer luncheon, is ‘blunch.”

... of course they might have been joking, they often did.


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1 comment:

Charlotte Oates said...

I've been failing at brunch for ages, I had no idea I was supposed to have an alcoholic drink first. I'll definitely rectify the situation next time I decide to make brunch! I think I might go for the passionfruit minosa, it sounds lovely.