How do you like your eggs?
When I ask this question of my family I get a variety of responses ranging from scrambled to "runny" as my kids referred to them when asking for an over easy egg with a soft yolk.
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For me, my favorite way to eat eggs is in eggs Benedict, something I have often ordered in restaurants, but never made at home. I admit, I am a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to eggs, preferring them to be not too soft, a bit firm, mostly to ensure properly cooked whites, in order to be "just right." For this reason I usually order my eggs well done in restaurants, even on my eggs Benedict, which has kept me from enjoying the dish in its purest form.
Eggs Benedict reportedly originated at Manhattan's famous Delmonico's Restaurant when regular patrons, Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, complained there was nothing new on the lunch menu. Delmonico's maitre d' and Mrs. Benedict began discussing possibilities and eggs Benedict was the result. Traditional eggs Benedict starts with an English muffin half, a slice of Canadian bacon and a poached egg. If that wasn't rich enough, a buttery Hollandaise sauce gets poured on top. With this as a starting point, many chefs give the dish their own twist, like subbing an artichoke cap or portobello mushroom for the bacon, yet the final product almost always includes a poached egg.
Armed with a pile of cookbooks, magazines and Internet research and a couple dozen eggs, I decided it was time to master eggs Benedict at home, complete with the perfectly poached egg.
What I found most interesting was the variety of methods for poaching eggs: some experts suggest adding a small amount of vinegar to a medium pot of simmering water before gently adding an egg, another added vinegar directly to the egg before placing the egg in the hot water, and yet another uses no vinegar at all. Vinegar, they say, helps the egg stay together while in the hot water.
In the most common technique, the cook cracks an egg into a small container then slips the egg into the center of a simmering pot of water and constantly stirs the water to create a "tornado like" effect. This keeps the egg contained with the whites wrapped evenly around the yolk. I found this method problematic when making more than one egg, as I worried about breaking the first egg while stirring in order to create the proper water current and had difficulty properly timing each egg since there was more than one in the pot.
The technique I found "just right" came from a trusty Cooks Illustrated cookbook and involves cooking the eggs in a skillet filled with water, a bit of salt and about 2 tablespoons vinegar. The eggs get cracked into coffee cups. The cook lowers the lip of each cup into the water and gently tips the eggs into the pan, covers the skillet removes it from the heat. The eggs cook for 4 minutes for medium-firm yolks. With a slotted spoon, carefully remove eggs and allow to drain. At this point you may place the eggs in cold water in order to hold while making additional eggs if needed. Eggs can be reheated easily by placing in boiling water for 30 seconds without impacting their texture, a technique I used with great success.
When assembling my eggs Benedict I found having an English muffin half at least ½ in thick worked best. I lightly buttered these, placed them on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes to warm. While they were in the oven I heated Canadian bacon slices in a skillet, reheated my eggs, and made a quick blender hollandaise sauce.
The Goldilocks in me found these to be "just right" and given the response from my family, I plan on adding eggs Benedict to the list of at-home brunch favorites.
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the Daily Herald's Cook of the Week Challenge.