Holidays are a good time for a hearty breakfast

Eggs Florentine in foreground are joined by Eggs Benedict. BY JACK CLEMONS
November 27, 2011

Have you had enough turkey? We shared a 14-pounder with a handful of people and probably have more left than we were able to eat. By now, everyone’s had their fill of sliced turkey and cranberry sandwiches. We’re trying to devise ways to hide the remains of the bird in enchiladas, stir fries and soup. The key to success is to choose highly spiced dishes that will overcome the blandness of the not-so-secret ingredient.

In the long weekend following Thanksgiving, you’ll need to give your family and guests a hearty meal at breakfast to fortify them for holiday sales outings or their long drive home from grandmother’s house. This meal is also the chance to avoid anything turkey-related. In our home, nothing says hearty breakfast better than eggs Benedict – rich, savory and slightly decadent.

We typically rely on the traditional recipe for this dish. Half a toasted English muffin forms the base, sturdy and stable with a nice crunch – perfect for sopping up the last drops of sauce. The next layer is a slice of Canadian bacon (or ham) that’s been lightly grilled. A poached egg is the crown, followed by a generous ladle of Hollandaise sauce.

As you may imagine, there’s ample opportunity to vary the ingredients. I’ve seen crab cake or spicy sausage replace the ham, and polenta or a biscuit stand in for the muffin. The signature sauce can be transformed with additions like cayenne, smoked paprika or chives; the only requirement is to be sure you make enough.

One familiar alteration is to eliminate the meat and tuck in a steamed vegetable - think asparagus or tender spinach as in the Florentine version in the photo. Here the sauce is slightly different, too. Instead of lemony Hollandaise, we’ve paired the dish with a tarragon- and shallot-infused Béarnaise sauce.

If you add a vegetable to the mix, be sure to steam it gently so it retains its texture. Nothing is less appetizing than mushy asparagus or shapeless spinach. Another important step is to blot or shake off any excess moisture so you don’t waterlog the English muffin.

Although sliced bacon doesn’t work well in Benedict, it does the job in this variation: baked eggs in a nest. Unlike the plated dish, a combination of bacon and egg is layered in muffin cups and baked. You can serve these atop or alongside toast slices to collect the creamy Hollandaise sauce, a lovely contrast to the crunchy bacon.

And if you’re serving breakfast for a crowd, consider the breakfast pizza. Unlike versions that call for topping the dough with scrambled eggs and cooked sausage, the eggs are cracked directly onto the cheese-covered dough and baked until set. The recipe can be readily adapted to include different spices, omit the bacon or (my favorite) serve with Hollandaise sauce.

I realize none of these dishes are heart-healthy or diet-friendly, but since we’re still in the middle of celebrating Thanksgiving, we’ll have plenty of time next week to scrimp on calories.

Béarnaise Sauce
1 T minced shallot
1 T lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
6 oz butter
2 T minced tarragon

Combine the shallot, lemon juice and salt in a glass measuring cup. Using an immersion blender or whisk, blend in the egg yolks. In the microwave, melt the butter in a measuring cup with a spout. When the butter is quite hot, pour it into the egg yolks, whisking or running the blender constantly. Add half the tarragon and continue to blend. Stop to test the consistency; it should be almost as thick as mayonnaise. Fold in the remaining tarragon. Yield: 1 C.

Baked Egg Nests
12 slices par-cooked bacon
6 eggs
1 T butter
6 T half-and-half

Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously coat the inside of a 6-cup muffin tin with nonstick cook ing spray. Use 2 slices of bacon to form a nest in each cup of the muffin tin. Crack one egg over the bacon in each cup. Divide the butter evenly and place a piece on top of each egg. Pour 1 T of half-and-half into each cup. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Place baked nests on breakfast plates and drizzle with Hollandaise sauce. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Hollandaise Sauce
3 egg yolks
1 T lemon juice
pinch of cayenne
1 C butter

In the microwave, melt the butter in a measuring cup with a spout. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice and cayenne in a blender. Pulse until the mixture lightens, about 25 seconds. When the butter is quite hot, turn the blender to its lowest speed and add the butter in a thin stream. The sauce will thicken immediately. Set the blender in a pan of warm water to hold before serving. Yield: 1 C

Bacon & Egg Pizza
Prepared pizza dough
4 slices bacon
1/3 C Parmesan cheese
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
4 eggs
salt & pepper, to taste
1 T minced parsley
1 T snipped chives

Preheat oven to 500 F. Cook bacon until crisp; drain, chop and set aside. Coat a pizza pan or baking sheet with flour. Shape the risen dough into a 12-inch circle and place it on the pan. Shake the pan forward and backward to test the dough isn’t sticking; add more flour, if needed. Scatter the dough with Parmesan, mozzarella and bacon. Crack the eggs on top, evenly separated; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate pan and bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with herbs. Yield: 4 servings.

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