The old saying about breakfast being the most important meal of the day can be traced back to an article in Good Health magazine in 1917. The article was written by Lenna Cooper, and the magazine’s editor was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, of cereal fame, who just might have had an ulterior motive for promoting an early-morning meal.
We love breakfast in our house, but trying to put together anything of significance during the week is an impossibility. On some Saturday mornings, however, and often for dinner, we’ll fix a more complete breakfast. (If it’s an evening meal, we’ll put on a pot of decaffeinated coffee.) And on rare occasions, we’ll splurge and prepare eggs Benedict, a dish that can be traced back to the early days of fine dining in this country.
Who came up with the dish is up for debate. One version of history has it that the dish was invented by chef Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s in New York City, the first fine restaurant in America. Supposedly, Ranhofer came up with the recipe in the 1860s to satisfy Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, who was a regular customer at Delmonico’s. Ranhofer included a recipe called Eggs a’la Benedick in his 1894 cookbook, “The Epicurean.”
Another version of the story in the New Yorker magazine traces the recipe to 1894. That account has a hungover Wall Street broker, Lemuel Benedict, ordering buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs and a pitcher of hollandaise sauce for breakfast one morning at the Waldorf Hotel. The chef at the Waldorf, Oscar Tschirky, made a few changes — Canadian bacon instead of bacon and an English muffin instead of toast — and featured the creation on his breakfast and lunch menus.
Whatever its origin, eggs Benedict has always been one of Abby’s favorites. She’s ordered the classic version when we’ve gone out for breakfast many times, but she had never made it at home. (For what it’s worth, the dish never sounded like something I would like, so I had never eaten it.)
One of the courses Abby took in culinary school included a unit on sauces, stocks and soups, and she said she and her classmates “made a lot of hollandaise,” which is one of the five so-called “mother sauces” of classic French cooking. It was during that class that Abby created her version of eggs Benedict, which she has prepared on a few special occasions.
One of those times came a couple of years ago as I was sitting in on an entrepreneurship class taught by Baylor professor David Allen, director of the John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship. Abby was close to graduating from culinary school, and I was looking for ways to help her get a new business venture off the ground, if that was what she chose to do. All of the other students were required to work in groups to develop a business plan. Not wanting any part of that, I decided to host all of my classmates for dinner one night in the fellowship hall of our church. I also invited some local business owners to dinner, hoping to give the students a chance to ask questions of people who were doing what we were discussing in class.
Those business folks shined. We didn’t have a great turnout of students, but those who did come had a chance to talk in a casual setting with Sammy Citrano, owner of George’s Restaurant; his son Kyle Citrano, who manages the George’s location at Westrock; Dina Dwyer-Owens, co-chair of the Dwyer Group; and Jennifer Wilson, owner of Spice Village.
We served that group Abby’s version of eggs Benedict, along with Morning Glory Muffins and Devonshire Cream. We used Buttermilk Biscuits and Candied Bacon and Abby’s Blender Hollandaise Sauce, but stuck with the poached eggs. In her latest take on the dish, Abby has used an egg cooked sunny-side up,and instead of the traditional hollandaise sauce — which can often be finicky and “break,” or separate; or the eggs can curdle — she calls for a much easier version that can be made in a blender in a matter of minutes. (All the recipes are listed below.)
Put together properly, eggs Benedict can be a beautiful dish, as you can see in Cydney Waitley’s photos accompanying this article. When she finished shooting, we weren’t sure what to do with that serving, especially with the hollandaise sauce drizzled over the top. So, I took one for the team and had my dinner at 4:30 that day.
When I teach my writing classes at Baylor, my students have an opportunity to ask questions of me in an interviewing exercise. When they find out that I previously reviewed restaurants as part of my job, or when I tell them Abby is a chef, someone often asks, “What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?” For years, the answer was a chocolate chimichanga with tequila cream sauce at Arizona Bar and Grill, a small restaurant once located in Rosebud and which had a brief tenure in Waco. Now, however, when a student poses that question, my answer has changed. I describe how a flaky, buttery biscuit is halved and placed on a plate and then topped with crispy candied bacon and an egg or two and some velvety-smooth hollandaise sauce. Then I tell the class that the best thing I’ve ever eaten is Abby’s version of eggs Benedict.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces (See note)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
Heat oven to 425 F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Using your hands or a mixer, combine flour mixture and butter until you have pea-sized pieces of butter.
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg and buttermilk, then add that mixture to the flour-butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times until completely mixed and you have a uniform ball of dough. Using your hands, flatten the dough until it is 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a knife, cut biscuits out of dough. If there is any dough remaining, gather it and re-flatten, then cut out more biscuits.
Place biscuits on an ungreased sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 8 biscuits.
Note: Instead of standard unsalted butter, you can splurge and use European-style butter. It’s more expensive and has a higher fat content, but it gives the biscuits a distinct buttery flavor.
- 1 package thick-sliced bacon
- Brown sugar, about 1 ounce per slice of bacon
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 425 F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place the bacon directly on the foil or on a rack atop the foil. Sprinkle the bacon with brown sugar, rubbing the sugar into each slice. Grind the pepper over the top — how much pepper you add is up to your individual taste.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the bacon is crispy. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Makes one package of bacon, approximately 12 slices.
Blender Hollandaise Sauce
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Pinch of cayenne pepper or a few dashes of Tabasco’s Chipotle Sauce, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Place the egg yolk and lemon juice in a blender. Pulse a few times to combine. With the blender running, slowly add the melted butter.
Pour sauce into a bowl, add the cayenne or Tabasco and salt. Taste and then adjust seasonings, adding more lemon, cayenne, Tabasco or salt if needed. Makes about 1/3 cup sauce (enough for about 4 servings).
Tank’s Favorite Eggs Benedict
To assemble, slice a Buttermilk Biscuit in half crosswise. Place both halves in the center of a plate. Place two slices of Candied Bacon on top of the biscuits. Top with two eggs, prepared however you wish, such as poached, sunny-side up, fried or baked. (Almost any method will work, except scrambled.) Drizzle Blender Hollandaise Sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley to add some color to the dish, if you wish.
Morning Glory Muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrot
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup grated apple (about half of one apple)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Heat oven to 350. Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the grated carrots, raisins, pecans, coconut and apple and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla in another bowl. Toss the carrot mixture with the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
Scoop into muffin tins and bake until done, for about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 12 muffins.
- 1 cup sour cream or yogurt
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream
Place all ingredients into a stand mixer or a bowl. Using a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip until fluffy.
Serve over fresh fruit or with Morning Glory Muffins. Makes about 2 cups.