Yesterday, being Eggs Benedict Day Eve (I’m not sure who chooses these days, or who makes them official?) we had eggs Benny on the Eyeopener. I made a classic version of hollandaise sauce, which is dead easy to do in the blender; it’s really like mayonnaise – blended egg yolks with melted butter drizzled in, and a bit of lemon juice. Three yolks and a cup of butter to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice is the ratio; you really could not get any more high fat than hollandaise sauce if you tried, which is probably why people don’t generally make it at home. When you order it at a restaurant you don’t witness (nor take part in) the use of cups of melted butter. Not being an accomplice absolves us of at least some of the guilt.
I went to Big Fish this past weekend and had crab eggs Benedict (they also do steak eggs Benedict), which reminded me of the crab cakes Benedict I wrote a recipe for in Homemakers’ magazine years ago. Crispy crab cakes topped with a poached egg and hollandaise. So I made them in the studio yesterday, and when Mike heard what I had done, he (rightly) told me that not making some for him as well would be just grounds for divorce. What judge wouldn’t take his side?
Using crab cakes as a base instead of the English muffin-back bacon combo was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. Use any crab cakes you like, top with a poached egg and drizzle of hollandaise. I used a can of crabmeat, drained and bound together with a bit of minced yellow pepper, about a handful of breadcrumbs, one of the egg whites left over from the sauce, a squirt of grainy mustard and spoonful of light mayo. I wish I had some panko to fry them in, but I just doused them with flour and fried them in a skiff of canola oil. Here’s a link to the original Homemakers’ recipe. (One of my very first assignments. I was completely ecstatic.)
Hollandaise is a room-temperature sauce, since it’s made with melted butter that would congeal if it was too cold and egg yolks that would scramble if they got too hot. Some recipes heat it gently in a double boiler, but the easiest method I find is to whiz 3 egg yolks (and if you have it, a tablespoon of half & half) in a blender until it’s foamy; then with the motor running drizzle in a cup of melted butter that has been heated until it’s bubbling (I do this in the microwave) but not browned. About halfway through, dribble in a tablespoon of lemon juice. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of slightly runny mayonnaise. Serve it just as is. People tend to get funny about the use of heated but not necessarily cooked through egg yolks in their hollandaise, which I think is funny considering no one thinks twice about the runny yolk of the poached egg underneath it.
But this is the recipe I think you should have – a lightened version of hollandaise sauce that was one of my biggest food challenges ever. In this hollandaise, white bread is soaked in water and lemon juice and whizzed until smooth with the other ingredients, acting as an emulsifier and giving the sauce body in place of the traditional egg yolks and large quantity of butter, for a savings of more than 50 grams of fat (mostly saturated) and about 450 calories!
Lightened Lemon Basil Hollandaise Sauce
1/4 cup water or milk
1 to 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 slice of white sandwich bread, torn into pieces, or about 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
Salt to taste
2-3 fresh basil leaves
Pour water and lemon juice over the bread crumbs; let stand for about 5 minutes until the bread absorbs all the liquid and becomes mushy. In a blender or food processor, mix the soaked bread until it turns into a paste. With the motor running, drizzle in warm melted butter as thin a stream as possible and process until mixture thickens slightly. Taste and add salt if necessary. Add basil leaves and pulse a few times until the basil is chopped and incorporated.
This is what full-fat hollandaise looks like after cooling in the fridge – it has the spreadable consistency of frosting and the texture of soft, whipped butter. (When it has congealed the fat content becomes obvious.)