Tender-crisp asparagus puts a fresh twist on the classic Eggs Benedict recipe.
Eggs Benedict has always been one of those dishes that I thought was too fussy to make at home. It was a special treat that I reserved for fancy brunches at restaurants, like the Windsor Arms Sunday brunch, and quite frankly it looked like too much work for breakfast at home.
When you break the dish down though, it’s really not that complicated: two toasted English muffin halves, a slice of ham or Canadian bacon, a poached egg and a generous spoonful of Hollandaise sauce. My eggs Benedict recipe is a bit unconventional – I’ve swapped in toast for the English muffin, omitted the meat and added in some fresh spring asparagus instead, but it’s just as tasty!
Challenges with Making Eggs Benedict
My biggest stumbling blocks with this recipe were the poached eggs and the Hollandaise sauce, because I had never made either of those things before. I know, I know, I’m in my 30’s and I’ve never poached an egg? What?? Honestly, I’m not a big fan of poached eggs outside of eggs Benedict, so I’ve never felt the need to make them!
I wish I had videotaped my attempts at poaching the egg, because I’m sure it would have been hilarious to watch. What a disaster! I followed Bon Appetit’s instruction on How to Make Stress-Free Poached Eggs, which should probably be renamed to How to Totally Overcomplicate Poached Eggs.
Their first instruction is to crack the egg into a fine-mesh sieve, and allow the watery parts of the white drain out. I managed to tear the yolk on the sieve twice. Then, you’re supposed to make a “gentle vortex” and slide the eggs in. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure those words negate one another…
I eventually realized that pouring the egg in from a height would cause the whites to explode upon contact with the water, which also separates the yolk. Spinning the water too quickly, and boiling the water (instead of simmering) has a similar effect. You can see some of my failures below.
Eventually I found a Jamie Oliver video called Perfect Poached Eggs – 3 Ways, and figured out how to poach the eggs properly.He doesn’t strain his eggs, and he doesn’t continue stirring the water after tipping in the eggs, which worked out better for me. I’ve always learned better from seeing how something is done, rather than reading about how it’s done.
I also learned that fresh eggs are key to making really nice poached eggs. My eggs were not fresh. Well, they were fresh to me, but I think they had been sitting in the grocery store for a while. Something to keep in mind for next time! I was happy with how my final eggs turned out, and I’m pretty sure that the process won’t be quite so painful the next time I try to make this dish.
The Hollandaise sauce was actually not that difficult to make, but it is time consuming. If you’d rather use an instant powder, or a microwaveable recipe for the sauce, I won’t judge you. Sometimes you just want to eat and not go through all the fuss! My friend told me that you can get a decent jar of Hollandaise sauce from Loblaws grocery, and my ex-boyfriend made a pretty decent mock hollandaise out of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and butter, so you’ve got lots of options!
I used the Hollandaise sauce recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School cookbook* (oh, go ahead and laugh, the book is actually great!). My version of Hollandaise sauce has less butter than Martha’s version, so it’s not as rich. 3/4 cup of butter in the sauce just felt like too much for a breakfast dish. You can eyeball it though and see if the sauce is velvety enough for your taste or not. I also omitted the shallot reduction, because while that would probably be very tasty, I didn’t want to make this more complicated.
Eggs Benedict with Asparagus
- 12 asparagus spears , trimmed
- 4 slices bread , toasted
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter , room temperature, cut into tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 4 fresh eggs
Bring a large pot of salted to water a boil.
Cook the asparagus for about 3-5 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus from the pot and place into a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside for later.
Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Add egg yolks to a heatproof bowl and whisk until they become pale in colour.
Place the bowl over the simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water).
Whisk the yolks constantly and cook over the warm water until they have thickened, which takes about 3 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter at a time, whisking constantly, making sure that each tablespoon is incorporated completely before adding the next.
Once all the butter has been added, season with lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not stiff. If it is too thick, thin it with a little water.
The sauce is best if used immediately, however it can sit for about an hour in a Thermos, if needed. Leftover sauce can be reheated over low heat, with a little bit of water and melted butter whisked in.
In large saucepan, heat water over medium heat until simmering. If desired, you can use a large slotted spoon to quickly stir the water, creating a spinning effect that can help wrap the whites around the yolks.
Crack each egg, one at a time, into a small bowl, then gently slide each one into the simmering water. Make sure to tip the eggs in close to the surface of the water – not from a height.
Cook the eggs until whites are set and yolks are still soft - about 3 minutes. Then remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.
To Assemble the Eggs Benedict:
Butter the slices of toast, and arrange 3 asparagus spears on each piece. Carefully place one egg on each piece of toast, and top with a generous spoonful of the hollandaise sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Please note that the calories listed are only an estimate.
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