Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is about a century old, but it’s not really known who invented it, or who Benedict was. (There are several claimants.) I’m suspicious of the dish in restaurants, because it’s the only fancy egg dish that is very well known nationwide. So a lot of cooks who really don’t know what they’re doing try to make it, with predictable results.

Although the classic version used Canadian bacon, I like eggs Benedict better when made with a thick piece of grilled or (better) baked ham. But other substitutes are interesting. Prosciutto, for example. Smoked salmon isn’t bad. In fact, in many breakfast restaurants you’ll see a whole section of “bennies”: poached eggs with a choice of many understories.

The trickiest part is poaching the eggs. You need the freshest eggs available. Only then will you be able to make the yolks stand up like spheres instead of blobs. The hollandaise should also have some body, and enough cayenne to keep all that richness from cloying. A great touch: truffles shaved on top.


  • Hollandaise:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • 2 Tbs. vinegar
  • 8 very fresh jumbo eggs
  • 8 small slices lean, smoky ham, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 English muffins, split and toasted
  • Cayenne


1. Whisk the egg yolks and the vinegar briskly in a metal bowl set over a saucepan with about an inch of simmering water at the bottom. If you see even a hint of curdling in the eggs, take the bowl off the heat, but keep whisking. Keep going back and forth from the heat until the mixture turns thick and lightens in color. Whisk in a tablespoon of warm water.

2. Begin adding the softened butter, a pat at a time. After about a fourth of the butter is in there, you’ll begin to see a change in the texture of the sauce. At that point, you can step up the addition of the butter a bit, and keep going till all the butter is incorporated.

3. Whisk in the cayenne and the lemon juice. Set the bowl in a bigger bowl of warm (not hot!) water and cover with plastic wrap.


1. Use a large stainless-steel skillet filled with water about an inch and a half deep. Bring it to a boil while dissolving the salt into it and adding the vinegar.

2. The hard part of poaching eggs is keeping them together as you add them to the pan. The best trick is to use a tall coffee cup–the kind that narrows at the bottom. Break one egg into each of four cups. (Or eight, if your skillet is big enough to fit all those eggs.)

3. When the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Slide the eggs carefully into the pan, two (or four, even) at a time. Let them simmer for three to four minutes, depending on the size of the eggs.

4. The best tool to remove the eggs with is a round skimmer with holes in it, or a large slotted spoon. Carefully remove one at a time, and let the excess water drip off.

5. Place a slice of ham atop each English muffin half, then top with an egg. Cover with a generous flow of hollandaise. Garnish with a light sprinkle of cayenne.

Serves four brunch entrees, or eight dinner appetizers.

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  1. Tom Shinn on April 16, 2015

    I ill be going to San Francisco net week and was wondering if you had an recommendations for restaurants. I ll be stating in the Union Square area.

    First off, I’ll tell you that it would be very much worth your time and money to pick up either a city guide or a restaurant guide to San Francisco. I’d recommend the “Eclectic Gourmet Guide” or the “Unofficial Guide to San Francisco.” I always buy a guidebook even to cities were I’ve been many times–indeed, I just picked up one today for my upcoming trip to San Francisco.

    Now. . .

    In San Francisco, if you can possibly swing a stay at the St. Francis Hotel, there is no better place–certainly not in terms of location, with the cable car at the front door and Union Square–with its concentration of great restaurants–right outside.

    My favorite restaurants lately (this is not a comprehensive list–I can hardly keep up with New Orleans, let alone San Francisco) include (in nor particular order):

    La Folie
    Fleur de Lys
    Gary Danko

    Tadich Grill
    Zuni Cafe
    Cortez (a tapas restaurant)

    The Great Eastern
    Yank Sing

    In the wine country, the hotels don’t make much of a difference, so the more rustic the better. (I usually wind up staying at a winery, and if you’re a good customer of one of the wine stores you might ask about that.) There are many bed and breakfast operations, too.

    Anytime of year is good EXCEPT during the crush, from late August through September. Everybody’s too busy to give you attention. I would also schedule my visit during the week rather than on a weekend. There’s a traffic jam to get there on weekends.

    The best restaurants include:
    Auberge du Soleil
    Mustard’s Grill
    Bistro Don Giovanni
    Tra Vigne
    Pinot Blanc
    Bistro Jeanty
    Oakville Grocery for take-out for picnics

    And, of course, The French Laundry–but good luck getting reservations.

    There are so many worthwhile wineries that it’s hard to figure out a starting place, but I love the tour at Sterling. Robert Mondavi is very busy and somewhat touristy, but still worthwhile. The Wine Discovery Center at St. Supery is a great introduction to the area. After you hit one of these biggies, just stop in at the smaller wineries, especially those whose wine you’ve had. They all have tasting rooms, and all offer wines that are sold only at the winery.

    Have fun!

    Tastefully yours,
    Tom Fitzmorris