In the vein of Eggs Benedict, you might enjoy these alternatives.
Using a four-inch round cutter and thick slices of my homeland dill bread, prepare the bread for pan-frying in sizzling golden clarified butter, in a very hot skillet (but careful not to make noisette). Fry the bread rounds on both sides. Once over lightly in the extra hot pan should work beautifully. You don’t want soggy bread.
Salmon prepared any which way loves dill. If you absolutely cannot get fresh dill, sprinkled dried will do in a pinch. Always have a wedge of lemon handy. And extra salt and pepper at the ready.
For Eggs Arlington, prepare a generous ring of twisted Norwegian Steel smoked salmon napkins to form a generous braid-like ring (not strips) around the outside edge of the fried bread round. Sprinkle the twisted salmon braid with chopped fresh dill.
Top the bread round with an extra-large poached egg with runny yolk (carefully drained on a white paper towel).
Pour freshly made warm hollandaise (I prefer it made ahead, with shallots and white wine vinegar – really a bearnaise) over the poached egg that is still plenty runny. Sprinkle with a little sweet paprika and if you love heat, a sprinkle of cayenne. Salt, pepper and enjoy!
Note: on the plate, beneath the grilled dill bread round, you could place a mound of Norwegian light Jarlsberg cheese for a little different treat. Be sure the deli slices the cheese very thin. This cheese pairs wonderfully with the twisted thin layers of the Norwegian smoked salmon.
For an unusual treat, prepare this dish using a round of pre-baked room temperature or warmed butter puff pastry. Or serve on a warmed plate with a buttered fresh, warm, large croissant on the side.
If you would prefer to swap the smoked salmon for crab, make your favourite crab cakes ahead of time. Pull apart the crab cakes to make a surround ring to put on the peripheral of the butter pan-toasted bread, leaving the centre bread area open to accept the runny yolk poached egg. You might want to call this my version of Chesapeake Eggs.
If you are serving any version of this poached egg delicacy for brunch and you wish to imbibe, a Stella Artois beer in its special glass will marry well with all the flavours.
For a vegetarian arrangement, often called Eggs Florentine, simply replace the salmon ring with a generous ring of sweated, salted, mounded fresh, hot, buttered, chopped spinach. (Be certain to drain the spinach well.)
Or you could use my frozen, thawed supply of spinach, always in my freezer for my spinach grilled cheese sandwich. (Manwich recipe.)
Grate shards of fresh Parmesan over the spinach using the large-hole side of your box grater.
Note: Use a generously thick round of my homemade Boston brown bread, or even a round of my date bread when preparing my Eggs Florentine. It’s melt in your mouth delicious every time. If you don’t have my breads, toast a split in half English muffin, or even a buttered crumpet.
You do want the poached eggs to be “just cooked” so that the yolks are runny. The hollandaise needs to be just off hot. Use as much or as little as you prefer.
With any of these dishes a small side serving of my herb-marinated Canadian creamy goat cheese coins will be a taste bud tantalizer.
Over the moon: Instead of hollandaise, use my very own special homemade Caesar Salad dressing (created in the 1970s). It keeps for several weeks and has many uses other than for salad, stored refrigerated in a glass screw top airtight jar. I even packed it carefully and shipped two large jars to a friend and her husband in New Hampshire; they had been here and enjoyed it so much. Rather than send the recipe, even though they both cook, I just decided to make a “care-package.” It was much enjoyed.
Or if you are wild about blue cheese, my warm blue cheese dressing would make your meal special indeed.
If using fresh hollandaise, and you are so inclined, you might like just a little drizzle of my hazelnut pesto overtop to complete the service.
Either of these combos could become a habit. Or, if you have overnight guests, it may be a special treat that they might not have enjoyed before. Arrange two bread rounds and two soft poached runny eggs per serving.
You could knock on the guest room door with a very large tray in hand. Cover the full tray with an opened white cotton napkin, under the plate. Warm the serving plate ahead of time. Arrange the meal plate in an attractive position. And tuck utensils into the specially folded napkin. A small, low, secure vase on the tray, with a fresh colourful flower would be appealing.
If doable, a few white-chocolate dipped whole fresh juicy strawberries would be plenty as a dessert, arranged tapas fashion on a skewer.
You can buy mosquito netting outdoor tented tray covers in various sizes. Have several sizes on hand in your storage and use one to cover each tray. The tray will often fit on a folding luggage stand, the type used in hotel rooms.
Incredible alternate: Choose a perfectly ripe, fresh, generous-size tomato, ideally beefsteak. Or any firm fresh tomato, any colour: red, green, yellow or white.
Mark an “x” on the bottom skin and place each tomato in boiling hot water just for a few seconds. The skins will slip right off. Hollow out the seeds and pulp leaving a big hole.
Fill the hole halfway with the hot buttered, chopped spinach. Top with a perfectly cooked, yolk runny poached egg. Place each filled tomato on your choice of the bread rounds as noted above.
Top with your favourite hollandaise or other sauce. Can you spell “indulge?”
Instead of peeling the tomato, holding the top stem end in your hand, rub the whole tomato in your hand, pushing against the large hole side of a box grater, until you only have the tomato skin in your hand. It’s easy to do and the results are amazing. Using a slotted spoon, drain the tomato pulp away from its natural juices.
Make a fresh tomato pulp mound on a bread round. Salt, pepper and perhaps add a tiny pinch of your refrigerated golden oven-roasted garlic purée. (This tomato pulp is also a fabulous side dish with a spinach filled three-egg omelet.)
Push a small pocket into the centre of the tomato pulp mound as a place to receive a poached egg. Drizzle with your favourite sauce. You might not have ever tasted such a fresh tomato flavour. Maybe serve with a few rashers of crispy Canadian full fat bacon. You might want to dip one crispy bacon slice end (about an inch), into a little melted bitter dark chocolate.
My Shallot Hollandaise (Bearnaise, and other extra special memory-makers)
Use clarified butter you have prepared by melting a half pound of unsalted butter over warm heat and separating the milk solids (ghee). It keeps for ages. This way you will always be able to make your hollandaise at a minute’s notice. Just a little mis en place idea. You could even take your ghee to the cottage, so you don’t have to be concerned about refrigerating it.
Chop several shallots quite fine and blanch them just until tender, in a half cup of white wine vinegar, a little sugar and a little salt and fresh ground peppercorns; you could add a few capers. The vinegar will reduce by half. Strain and separate the shallots and vinegar.
You are going to stir the reduced vinegar into your hollandaise sauce.
In a bain marie, mix the reserved vinegar with six large egg yolks. Stir until the sauce combines well and add a little of the ghee. Keep adding the clarified butter until you have incorporated it all and the sauce thickens like a sabayon. Stir constantly. Add freshly squeezed juice of a half lemon and a tiny drop of Dijon.
Careful not to have your bain marie touching the simmering water. Lift the metal mixing bowl occasionally so it doesn’t get too hot. You don’t want the sauce eggs to become scrambled eggs.
Serve the hollandaise sauce over poached eggs as noted in my various recipes. You can use the reserved wonderful shallots, if you prefer, in other recipes. Likewise, the egg whites. You could even use the whites to make a different dish: cloud eggs.
Some of our readers enjoy egg white omelettes and you could top those omelettes with the blanched shallots and a swipe of Dijon; and put a little tomato grated puree on the side, or you could make my Bird’s Nest Pavlova or use the egg whites for meringue. Maybe even make an angel food cake. Don’t waste the egg whites.
Note: If you enjoy “heat,” you could add a bit of hot sambul or hot tabasco sauce, or even a little fresh grated horseradish in cream, depending on how you intend to use your personalized hollandaise sauce.
If using with seafood, you might enjoy adding a small splash of Pernod. With others, perhaps a splash of Asbach Uralt cognac.
You could sprinkle a few chopped fresh herbs over top when you pour the sauce over poached eggs. With salmon or crab you might want to add extra chopped fresh dill, or even tarragon. With the others, perhaps use chopped fresh parsley, or use the shallots, particularly with the spinach.
There’s also a Sauce Mousseline: hollandaise with whipped cream folded in.
Now, if you want a very different sauce for your Eggs Benedict, you might consider my version of Sauce Maltaise. This sauce is made using the juice and zest of the famous sweet blood oranges, native to Malta.
I had a client in the 1980s who grew a blood orange tree that produced amazing fruit, in his own backyard. Twenty years earlier he had spirited a small tree out of Malta and somehow managed to pass the border with it. Even more amazing was how he managed to keep it alive and convince it to bear fruit in our Toronto climate.
Even if you cannot find sweet blood red oranges, you will enjoy making this sauce. You could even serve it over white or green asparagus tips with your poached eggs, as a separate side dish (maybe use the cloud eggs).
When the hollandaise is cooked and removed from the heat source and cooled just a little, add a couple of teaspoons of the blood red orange juice, freshly squeezed. Then gently stir in a bit of zest.
But here is my substitute: In your small kitchen machine, finely mince almost to a powder, a half cup of your mixed homemade candied citrus rinds from your pantry citrus sugar jar. Add a half-teaspoon of the citrus sugar to your hollandaise.
Spoon the Maltaise sauce over your poached eggs and top with a couple of the pantry citrus jar homemade candied rinds to indicate what is about to be enjoyed on the palate.
This sauce will find several uses in your kitchen.
Simply decide which sauce suits your fancy and enjoy!
© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience