I have to admit I've never understood the popularity of the "Sunday brunch" at otherwise decent restaurants—the lines are ridiculous, the food often subpar, and you know as well as me the waitstaff have plenty of better things to do (like nurse their own hangover). My indifference to this cultural phenomenon doesn't mean I don't love a pile of pancakes and a fried egg or two; it's just that I prefer them from the comfort of my own home.
One of my favorite brunch recipes is the classic Eggs Benedict. When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to make it every week as an early game day breakfast, since we had to watch football on Eastern Standard Time. Back then I only knew how to poach one egg at a time, so it made for a slow moving meal to serve a crowd. (Don't worry, I can now cook eggs at a much faster pace!)
While Eggs Benedict topped with rich and tangy hollandaise sauce is a very delicious way to celebrate nothing in particular, using two sticks of butter for breakfast is not something I really need to do on a regular basis. This in addition to the fact that my fiancé has recently taken up a very strict diet and exercise routine, leaving me to one too many indulgent meals alone.
These days if I want a dining partner, I have to conform to his more lean approach to food, so I decided to come up with a lightened up Eggs Benedict that we can both enjoy over coffee. While it's still not worthy of everyday status, I can at least enjoy it without feeling guilty about my tempestuous offerings to the better half.
Instead of my usual recipe, I've subbed in a whole grain English muffin with turkey bacon instead of ham, and I added spinach and a tomato to up the nutritional value. The best part, though, is the "mock hollandaise." Using light mayonnaise, Dijon, lemon juice, and just a pat of butter, I managed to recreate the flavors of my homemade Hollandaise pretty darn close. The results were so delicious, I may never go back to the old way again!
Lighter Eggs Benedict with Mock HollandaiseServes 4 to 6
For the base:
8 slices smoked turkey bacon
4 whole wheat English muffins, split in half
2 tablespoons butter, softened (optional)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
8 large eggs
For the mock hollandaise:
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
2 cups spinach leaves
8 thick tomato slices, thoroughly dried
Kosher salt and pepper, for garnish
Paprika, for garnish
Preheat to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the bacon strips in a single layer. Cook on the middle rack for approximately 20-25 minutes, until the slices reach your desired crispness. (For Eggs Benedict, I like it a little less crispy than usual, so 20 minutes usually works for me.) Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and discard foil.
Arrange the English muffin halves on a separate baking sheet. Cook until toasted and lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes. Spread with softened butter, if desired. Lower oven temp to 170° (or warming temperature). Hold English muffins and bacon until eggs are poached and ready to assemble.
While the bacon is cooking, fill a medium to large saucepan with 1-1/2 to 2 inches of water and 2 teaspoons white vinegar. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low; water should maintain a few small occasional bubbles. Crack each egg into a small dish (I use a small sake glass), partially submerge the dish in the pan, and tip the egg into water. Cook until the whites are set and opaque, but yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Trim any excess whites, if desired. Here is a tutorial on poaching eggs. (Note: Eggs can be poached ahead of time and the re-warmed in hot water just before serving.)
To make the mock hollandaise, whisk the mayonnaise, Dijon, and lemon juice. Melt the butter and stir in quickly. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and a generous amount of cayenne pepper.
To assemble the Eggs Benedict, top each muffin half with a handful of spinach, followed by a tomato slice, a piece of bacon split in half, and a poached egg. Drizzle with hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, and paprika. Serve immediately.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)