It was my second wedding anniversary this week. My husband, who does many things right, remembered to send me irises, my wedding flower. We took the day off from work to spend together, finishing with a memorable dinner and a fantabulous crème brulée at what has been dubbed, even in its first year, the area’s best restaurant: Bonne Soiree. It was a great day.
I love having our wedding anniversary on the first day of spring. This is my favorite time of year, when every morning it’s a treat to go outside and see what is growing today. The garden is really starting to come to life, as all the bulbs pop up their heads. Those are my daffodils, two rows of sun worshippers following the sun’s progress across the sky. The redbuds exploded over the weekend, just like my winter pansies, and everywhere you look is purple. Except in the woods behind our house, where all the trees’ branches are tipped with that delicate first green.
My husband has been traveling a lot lately, so it’s been mostly meals for one. On nights when I’m alone, I tend to either make meals that focus on cleaning out the fridge or I revert to easy-to-make comfort food, like risotto and eggs. I also like to use the alone time to browse through my cookbooks and see what catches my fancy.
I am particularly fond of those ring-bound cookbooks produced by women’s groups like my copy of Cooking New Orleans Style! by the Women of All Saints’ Episcopal Church. I don’t necessarily like to cook frequently out of these cookbooks, but it’s fun to read the recipes, which always remind me of my grandmother’s cooking. Certainly, these ladies know how to cook.
The recipe for Eggs Benedict in Cooking New Orleans Style! particularly amused me. Here it is:
On individual serving plates, place one toasted English muffin half. Place slice of ham on each. Top with a poached egg. Cover with Hollandaise sauce and sprinkle with paprika.
The good ladies of All Saints’ Episcopal clearly don’t think their readers need any further instruction than this, such as how to poach an egg or make Hollandaise sauce, both of which can be rather fiddly tasks if you haven’t done them before. You have to wonder why they even bothered to write down the recipe at all. But I’m glad they did, because I immediately craved Eggs Benedict and actually made it twice last week.
Despite its down-home qualities — or maybe because of them — Cooking New Orleans Style! is a handy cookbook to have in my collection, offering perfectly authentic New Orleans recipes such as Cajun Remoulade Sauce and Creole Barbecued Shrimp, plus no less than three recipes each for Pralines and Bread Pudding. One of these days I’m going to have to work up the courage to try the Bust Your Girdle Cake.
In the meantime, in case I’ve inspired you to make Eggs Benedict as well, here are the missing components. (I make my Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon rather than ham).
How to Poach an Egg
Use a wide, fairly deep skillet rather than a pot. The eggs will cook faster and will be more stable if they can “rest” on the bottom of the skillet. Fill it to two-thirds of its height with water. For each egg, add ½ tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. white vinegar to the water; this will keep the whites from spreading out so much when the eggs go into the water.
Heat the water just to the point when it’s barely bubbling over medium-low. Crack each egg into a coffee cup. When the water is ready, slip each egg into the water from the cup on opposite sides of the skillet. I have no problems performing this manuever with 2 eggs; more dextrous cooks may be able to handle 4 eggs, or enlist a helper.
Eggs take about 4 minutes to poach, but I generally judge doneness by sight rather than time. The white will be set on top and creeping up over the yolk. Lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon and place on your English muffin halves and ham or smoked salmon slices.
Hollandaise Sauce is super-easy to make, once you know how and presuming you have a blender. First melt 1 stick of butter over low heat. Then, combine the following in the blender:
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ tsp. salt
- pinch dry mustard or cayenne
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
With the blender running, slowly dribble in the butter through the top until the sauce thickens. Yields 1 cup.
Notes: Hollandaise can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week, but it will get very thick. To reheat, submerge the bowl containing the Hollandaise in a pot of water and heat slowly over low. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a tablespoon of the warm water until it’s the right consistency.