Challenge yourself to savor homemade Eggs Benedict

It’s only food. It’s only food. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  

I like to repeat this mantra to myself and to my students often. When presented with recipes that are intimidating, that hold high expectations and stories of burning, breaking, curdling, and separating, the mantras keep the cook grounded and confident. Say it with me once more: it’s only food

These stories become culinary oral histories, told before whisks are in-hand and recipes are read. The lore of the water, the butter, the eggs, become lodged in the psyche and elicit fear as soon as the words are whispered: eggs benedict…hollandaise. But the recipes that make this luxurious and simple dish are just food; they are techniques and chemical reactions that create the silky butter sauce that veils the smooth poached eggs. 

Sure, it may be a pound of butter and all the strength you can muster from your forearm, which feels like an hour of whisking, but if you’re not afraid to break it, to learn from it, and most importantly, to attempt it, you will be rewarded with the most decadent egg dish that can be modified to any taste and flavor profile.

Before you begin, some things to remember:

  • Your butter needs to be warm but not hot. It should be liquid in consistency but not hot enough that it will cook your eggs (over 145 degrees). On the opposite end, it shouldn’t be cold, which will also break the sauce. A good indication is if you’re using ghee or clarified butter, it should be transparent and warmer than body temperature (around 110 to 120 degrees).
  • For all water, it should only be at a simmer, never at a boil. For poaching the eggs, it should be right around 180 degrees.
  • Whisk the eggs with the reduced vinegar prior to putting them over the water bath until lemon-yellow and frothy. This will help during the initial cooking process.
  • Always take the eggs off the heat when adding the butter. If you keep them on the heat, it will continue to cook and the sauce will break.
  • Too much butter can break your sauce. I always go by flavor rather than amount. The end result of the hollandaise should taste like butter and not egg. If you’re tasting and notice the shift in flavor, don’t be afraid to stop.  
  • If at all possible, always use fresh lemon juice.
  • The vinegar in the poaching water will help tremendously. Do not omit.  
  • Always poach an extra egg just in case one doesn’t turn out.