Brunch for dinner

Our youngest daughter, Jennifer Lynn has always enjoyed cooking and baking. So while she’s been home on winter break from her first semester in the dorms at college – in addition to not sharing a bathroom with eight other girls – she has really enjoyed being able to whip up a batch of cookies or make a breakfast burrito whenever she’s in the mood to cook.

So a few days ago, she told me that during her time at home, she wanted to make Eggs Benedict. She wasn’t really sure if this craving was fueled by a fond memory of having the dish for brunch at a restaurant or re-watching all the episodes of PBS’s Sherlock …starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

In case you’re not familiar with Eggs Benedict; it’s basically a heart attack on an English muffin. It starts with an open-face toasted English muffin which is innocent enough assuming that you don’t butter it. But then each half of the muffin has a layer of bacon or ham topped with a poached egg. If that isn’t enough to send your LDL levels soaring, the eggs are topped with Hollandaise sauce.

What’s Hollandaise sauce? An emulsion of egg yolks and melted butter flavored with a few teaspons of lemon juice. Think of it as sauce that has hit its cholesterol saturation point. Keeping leftover Hollandaise sauce and serving it more than once would be a death wish.

Given that Eggs Benedict is lethal stuff and Steve had triple bypass surgery eight months ago, I thought we should perhaps put a Surgeon General’s Warning on the edge of the plate. We’ll just chalk this meal up to a once-a-year holiday treat; the next day Steve resumed his typical menu of skinless chicken, protein bars and nonfat milk.

Hollandaise sauce only has three ingredients but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make. We were doing just great, whisking the yolks over low heat and slowly beating in the butter but in a matter of seconds, between the time Jennifer and I topped the first poached egg with the sauce and turned back to the stove to get a second spoonful, the sauce “broke,” turning into a lumpy, oily mass of lumpy scrambled eggs. Internet to the rescue – it turns out that by mixing a small amount of the broken sauce into another egg yolk – oh good, another helping of cholesterol please – the sauce can be saved.

Our sauce was rescued and back to its smooth mayonnaise-like texture when we started the process of poaching the eggs. It sounds easy enough…bring a couple of inches of water to a simmer and then slip in an egg. It’s not. When it doesn’t work, the resulting floating mess of egg whites in water is pretty disgusting. A few more YouTube how-to videos and we finally had the technique down.

When we finally sat down to eat, the Eggs Benedict were absolutely delicious. There are conflicting stories about who created this combination of tricky techniques, precise timing and heart-stopping ingredients. Whoever it was, they were an evil genius.

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