The extended family vetoed an early-morning Father’s Day breakfast this year, so David and I had a celebration of our own before the afternoon picnic — he is, after all, a fantastic “Dad” to our two-year-old, ever-smiling dog, Sirius.
A few days prior, I was flipping through Ad Hoc at Home for inspiration and saw a gorgeous photo of poached eggs served with prosciutto, asparagus and croutons (it’s on page 157, if you’re curious). I was planning on making a variation of that dish with some No-Knead Bread or Garlic Croutons, but failed to give myself enough time (darn extended rise…). Alas, I remembered the Eggs Benedict that I made once the English muffins were perfected (if you ever peruse my flickr photostream, I so cruelly posted a photo without an accompanying recipe back in February — how is it already Summer?). It incorporates all of the elements of the Ad Hoc recipe PLUS Hollandaise. Needless to say, we were both sold.
Eggs Benedict, Italian-Style
(adapted from Basic Food Preparation Recipe Book, Fall 2010 Edition, Mission College, Santa Clara, CA))
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
- 1 large egg yolk (reserve whites for another use)¹
- 1 tablespoon water
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, strain pulp
- Pinch red pepper flakes (or cayenne, for a more traditional flavor)
- Water and vinegar to a depth of two inches (use the following ratio: 1 tablespoon [0.5 ounce / 14 grams] white vinegar
- for every 2 cups [16 ounces / 454 grams] water)
- 8 large eggs¹
- 1 1/2 – 2 pounds asparagus, trim ends
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sea Salt or Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Lemon wedges (optional)
For Assembling and Serving:
In a small, heatproof bowl (preferably metal, I use a 2-quart stainless steel one by Endurance/RSVP) or the top of a double boiler, whisk together egg yolk and water. In a small saucepan (2-quart) over medium heat, warm about 1” of water (make sure there’s at least 1/2” of space between the water and bottom of the bowl when it’s placed over the top) until it reaches a simmer. Combine salt and melted butter in a measuring cup with spout; set aside.
Set egg yolk and water mixture over simmering water, whisk constantly until mixture is thickened slightly (1 – 1 1/2 minutes). Carefully remove bowl (it will be hot!) from double boiler and allow to cool for 30 seconds, continuing to whisk constantly.
Return egg yolk mixture to heat and continue to whisk vigorously while you slowly drizzle in the butter (it’s the same technique as mayonnaise). Once the sauce is fully emulsified, continue to whisk and cook until it coats the back of the spoon and if you run your finger through it a track remains for a few seconds (it will be hot, take care not to burn yourself). (Remember the béchamel sauce for the macaroni and cheese? You want something like that, only less thick. You can see a photo over here).
Remove small bowl from heat and whisk in lemon juice (and cayenne, if using – do not add the red pepper flakes). Season to taste with additional salt and lemon juice.
DO AHEAD: The Hollandaise can be kept warm for up to 1 hour if you place the small bowl into another, larger bowl (I use a 4-quart) filled with hot, not simmering water (change every 10 – 15 minutes as it cools). Whisk the sauce every 5 minutes or so.
Prepare Poaching Liquid for Eggs:
In a 4″ deep saucepan (a 4-quart saucepan is a great size for cooking 4 eggs at a time), warm water and vinegar over medium heat.
Preheat oven to 450°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss asparagus and olive oil together. Line up asparagus on prepared sheet pan and place on the center rack of the oven. Roast for 7-8 minutes, or until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
While the asparagus roasts, poach eggs. Once the poaching liquid is hot (a few small bubbles will start surfacing), crack 4 eggs, one at a time, into the hot water. Wait about 30 seconds before touching. Using a slotted spoon, gently loosen eggs from the bottom of the pan (if necessary). Gently nudge the whites (still a bit clear at this point) around the yolk to form the egg into the nice poached egg shape. Cook for 3-4 minutes total. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining eggs (no need to change water unless it’s too cloudy—that means the water wasn’t quite warm enough when the egg went in).
Reheat egg(s), if needed, by slipping it back into hot water for about 30 seconds or so just before serving.
Assemble and Serve:
Spread 1 tablespoon (14 grams) Mascarpone on each of the toasted English muffins. Top with a slice of prosciutto and a poached egg. Pour 1 tablespoon Hollandaise over each and sprinkle with red pepper flakes (only if you didn’t use cayenne). Serve immediately with roasted asparagus and lemon wedges, if desired (for spritzing on asparagus).
¹ Please note that consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.
² Make sure your toaster is free of gluten crumbs. If you don’t own a toaster (like me) or have one that’s “safe,” the muffins can be toasted in the oven while the asparagus roasts – that’s what I do! Here’s how it works:
Make sure your oven racks are really clean (or at least place your muffins on a sheet of aluminum foil) and position them on the middle (for the asparagus) and lowest levels. Set muffins bottoms-up on the lowest rack and check for toastyness after a couple minutes. Continue toasting until desired level of golden-brown color is achieved. They can also be toasted under the broiler (and a careful watch) if you have a double oven or separate broiler.