Eggs benedict is, I think, the perfect brunch dish. It combines the best bits of breakfast – eggs, some kind of pig product, a good sauce and bread – with sufficient elegance and composure that it doesn’t feel weird to be eating it after 10am. Although it is the balance of the individual components that make it such a successful dish, that hasn’t stopped restaurants and chefs the world over creating a host of variations. Swap the ham for smoked salmon to turn it into Eggs Royale, or spinach for Eggs Florentine. These are probably the best known variations on the benedict classic, but that’s only the beginning: Eggs Chesapeake adds a Maryland blue crab cake, Eggs Mornay replace the buttery hollandaise with a cheesy mornay sauce, and Eggs Cochon is a New Orleans version which adds pulled pork and replaces the muffin with an American biscuit (turning it, some would say, into an entirely different dish).
But when it comes to the domestic kitchen, this popular dish can be a bit of a pain. Irrespective of the skill-level of the chef, the differences between a hotel or restaurant kitchen and a domestic kitchen are myriad – but one that is key is that the chef isn’t also expected to be the maître d’, the waiter, the barista, and the babysitter. In a restaurant kitchen, the chef can keep his eyes on the sauce. The chef doesn’t have to corral people to the breakfast table, or make coffee, or feed the dog. The chef isn’t expected to sit down and eat with his guests.
Now when you’re making a full English breakfast, or a vat of porridge, or pancakes, juggling those different roles can be tricky. But when you’re making eggs benedict, you have another thing to contend with: hollandaise.
A perfect hollandaise is edible satin: primrose yellow, tart and slightly lemony, rich and buttery, thin enough to pour, but thick enough to enrobe eggs and coat the back of a spoon.