Oh, Tom. First, you make us fall in love with your food all over London, and now you give us the recipe to make it at home. Every. Single. Day. What a guy, huh?
Eggs Benedicts are no joking matter. There’s no better feeling than being the best at a classic dish. How do you get perfectly poached eggs? Or make that creamy hollandaise? And do we grill the muffins or not? We’re learning from the master here.
1. First make the hollandaise sauce. Put the vinegar, shallots, peppercorns and herbs in a pan, bring to the boil and continue to boil until reduced by about two-thirds. Leave to cool to room temperature, then strain into a bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, clarify the butter: put the cubes in a pan over a gentle heat until melted. Skim the white foam off the surface, leaving only clear liquid. Set aside to cool until tepid, then carefully tip into a clean bowl, leaving any solid residue in the bottom of the pan.
3. Place a round metal bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and add the 6 egg yolks and the vinegar reduction. Whisk the mixture over the heat until it is a pale, fluffy mass – this will take 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously while adding the clarified butter to make a thick creamy sauce. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little warm water. If it separates, beat a fresh egg yolk with a spoonful of water in a clean bowl, then whisk the separated sauce into that – it should magically form a smooth sauce again.
4. Adjust the flavour with a little lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until needed. The best way to do this is to put the sauce into a bowl and stand it in a pot of warm water, about 40-50°C. Cover the bowl with clingfilm so a skin doesn’t form on the sauce.
5. Next, poach the eggs. Fill a large, shallow pan with water, add some white wine vinegar (about 2-4 tablespoons per litre of water) and bring to a simmer. The vinegar will help the eggs hold their shape.
6. Break the 8 eggs into separate coffee cups or ramekins. When the water is simmering, take a spoon or spatula and stir the water so it swirls around in the pan like a vortex. Add the eggs, one by one, as quickly as you can so they cook at the same time. The swirling water keeps the eggs in a nice round shape, but you might have to move them around a little so they don’t stick to each other or to the bottom of the pan. Poach for 3-4 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are soft and the yolks are runny.
7. Meanwhile, cook the bacon, if using.
8. Once the eggs are cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a small plate lined with kitchen paper. They need to dry off or they will make the toasted muffins soggy, which you do not want.
9. To serve, slice each muffin in half, toast them under the grill and spread with butter. Arrange the slices of ham on top and put the muffins back under the grill briefly to warm. Season the eggs with salt and pepper, carefully place one on each muffin half and ladle over the hollandaise. Garnish with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper if you wish. If using bacon, serve it on the side.
White wine vinegar
4 English Muffins
8 slices of ham or 12 pieces of crisp streaky bacon
120ml white wine vinegar
2 round shallots, finely sliced
12 black peppercorns
1 sprig thyme and 1 sprig of tarragon
350g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 egg yolks
Juice of 1/2 lemonSea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tom Aikens is one of the UK's most acclaimed and inspirational British chefs. His remarkable career took him to David Cavalier's in Battersea, Pierre Koffman's La Tante Clare, Pied-a-Terre and Joel Robuchon in Paris to name a few. At 26, Tom became the youngest British chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars.