Eggs benedict with Delia
The trick to eggs is to understand that they are not a food, but a birthplace ...
Good preparation,” it was once said, “is at the heart of a successful operation.” Who it actually was who first said that is lost to time, but no journalist has ever been sacked for falsely attributing a quote to Winston Churchill, so let’s say it was him.
To adapt Churchill (possibly) for the kitchen: good preparation is at the heart of a successful eggs benedict: and that starts with choosing your eggs.
“What we have to do before we even begin cooking,” Delia writes, “is to try to understand what eggs are and how they work.” And the trick to understanding eggs is to understand that they are not a food, but a birthplace, designed not to provide a handy kitchen staple but to bring more chickens into the world.
To keep the chick going while it’s in there, there’s a tiny little air pocket within the egg’s shell. This pocket is great news if you are a chick but terrible news if your eggs are anything less than fresh, as the longer the egg is left, the bigger the pocket gets, drying out the eggs and making it harder to separate the white from the yolk – and making poaching next to impossible.
If your eggs are fresh, poaching them according to the Delia method is so easy you could get a monkey to do it, provided you had some way of cajoling the monkey into retrieving the poached egg after it had sat in hot water for 10 minutes.
If your eggs are less than fresh, however, things can get a little tricky. Your eggs are just as likely to dissolve as they are to form successful poached eggs. The one piece of good news I have is this: if you cannot recall which one of the two boxes of eggs in your cupboard is the fresh one and it only becomes painfully clear that you have chosen the wrong box when the egg turns into mush the second it hits the water, don’t worry: the water itself will still serve perfectly well with a fresh egg.
Of course, there’s more to an eggs benedict than simply poaching an egg. The good news is, after not much practice, the time it takes to prepare the hollandaise sauce fits exactly into the amount of time you need to leave the poached egg in the hot water, meaning that all your ingredients should be nice and hot when you whack them on a muffin.
The bad news is, if you follow Delia’s instructions, unless you have a very, very, very steady hand, you will end up with not a nice, thick hollandaise sauce but something rather thinner. Unless you can get that melted butter in as steady a stream as possible, you will end up with a sauce that tastes like hollandaise, but certainly doesn’t look like it.
There are two solutions for this: the first is to add a teaspoon of cream to the mix, which gets you the right consistency but is a one-way road to heart failure. The second, more artery-friendly, way is to double the amount you put in of everything else, and add a teaspoon of cornflour. I graduated during the financial crisis, so, under the assumption that I won’t have a pension to collect should I live that long, I use cream. How’s that for financial planning?
That done, simply whack your poached egg on a piece of muffin alongside some pancetta, put it under the grill for a few seconds, and there you go. An eggs benedict worthy of any good cafe.