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   Brunch With
   Elegant Simplicity
   By John Havel

  There are at least two stories about the original Eggs Benedict, though both date to 1890’s New York City. One story names Delmonico’s as the point of origin, in 1893. A Mrs. LeGrand Benedict was tired of the usual fare at the restaurant, and negotiated the new dish with the help of Chef Charles Ranhofer. The other story credits Mr. Lemuel Benedict, who requested toast, bacon, poached eggs, and a small pitcher of hollandaise to help treat a hangover one morning in 1894 at the Waldorf-Astoria.

  Regardless of it's origin, Eggs Benedict is the reigning queen of the brunch. Rich as any European kingdom, this simple, elegant repast can elevate a gathering of commoners to an almost royal status. With four basic ingredients it's not hard to get it right.

  The English muffins should be as fresh as possible. Don't use the frozen muffins you bought for Aunt Martha last summer. Tearing the halves apart with a fork or with hands, rather than slicing them, increases their surface area, and therefore also their flavor and absorbancy.

  Often, ordinary ham is substituted in Eggs Benedict, but does not produce the same smokey flavor. Back bacon, as it's called in Canada, is taken from the lean, tender eye of the loin, which is located in the middle of the back. Although it costs more than ham, the taste is well worth it.

  I can't tell you how many people don't know what a poached egg is. I've seen eggs fried, steamed, baked, and soft boiled trying to pass for poached. They always end up being too rubbery and stand out as opposed to merging with the other ingredients.

  Finally, there is the Hollandaise sauce. Once you get the hang of making it right, you'll start finding more and more uses for it. The rich lemon-butter flavor enhances everything from vegetables to steaks to fish. Also, don't forget the final dusting of paprika, and make sure it's of good quality and freshness.

    Eggs Benedict
      8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
      3 egg yolks
      1 teaspoon lemon juice
      4 slices Canadian bacon
      2 English muffins, split
      4 eggs
      1 tablespoon vinegar

  Cut one tablespoon of butter from stick and set aside. Melt the remaining butter and place in a pourable container. Put the egg yolks and lemon juice in the upper section of a double boiler and stir with a wire whisk until well-blended. Stirring eggs continuously, bring the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer. Do not let it boil. Continue the constant whisking until the eggs have thickened to the consistancy of very heavy cream. Immediately whisk in the reserved tablespoon of butter to cool the eggs before they scramble. Turn heat off to the double boiler. Begin to add the melted butter with one hand, whisking vigorously with the other. Pour extremely slowly so that each addition is blended into the egg mixture before more is added. Set sauce aside, but whisk once in awhile to keep it smooth and creamy.

  Pour water into a large skillet to a depth of about 2 inches. Add vinegar and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, saute Canadian bacon with a little butter until warm throughout. Set aside and keep warm. Toast English muffins and keep warm.

  Break eggs into individual cups. Carefully slide eggs from each cup into the boiling water. Immediately reduce the heat so the water barely moves. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the yolks are still runny but the whites are firm.

  Place English muffin halves on serving plates. Top each with one slice of Canadian bacon. With a slotted spoon, place one poached egg on each. Spoon Hollandaise on top and dust with paprika. Serve warm.  

Music By John Havel

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