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Eggs Bitoun

“Kosher eggs Benedict” is what chefs Andre and Maurice Bitoun called this dish. Made with a single egg and smoked salmon in place of the ham of a standard Benedict, it was an appetizer at the Bistro Steak Room in Westwego, an excellent French-Creole restaurant the brothers ran in the 1970s and 1980s.

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 of cloying. A garnish of fried capers completes a real original derived from a familiar classic.

  • Hollandaise:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Garnish:
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. small capers
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • 2 Tbs. vinegar
  • 8 very fresh jumbo eggs
  • 8 slices cold-smoked salmon,about 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 English muffins, split and toasted


Hollandaise:

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. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a bigger bowl of warm (not hot!) water.

Garnish:
Heat the olive oil until fragrant. Add the capers and fry in the oil until crisp–about a minute. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm.

Eggs:

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 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 smoked salmon atop each English muffin half, then top with an egg. Cover with a generous flow of hollandaise. Garnish with the fried capers.

Serves four entrees or eight appetizers.