Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poached Salmon Eggs Benedict

"What should we eat for lunch today?" Clément asked, in the middle of our Sunday morning coffee-and-farmer's-market-grocery-list ritual.

After a bit of fridge inventory, the answer appeared to be eggs. But eggs how? Eggs with salmon, Clément suggested. I love this combination, but we've already done scrambled eggs with smoked salmon several times, and I was in the mood for something different. We could bake the salmon and have a spinach salad with a poached egg, I offered. Maybe we could even try hollandaise sauce.

That was it. Hollandaise sauce!!! Lunch would be eggs benedict.

A few errands later, we had two salmon filets, lots of butter, fresh parsley, and some bread. I chose something my local bakery calls pain des prés, or "prairie bread." I wasn't familiar with it, but the size and texture looked perfect. And indeed, when I cut it open, the inside was soft and would nicely absorb the sauce, but the crust was flaky, crisp, and substantial, and would keep the dish from turning out all spongy. Its interior also contained some slightly crunchy whole grains, which added a little extra something.

I am proud to announce that my first attempt at hollandaise sauce was a big success! After looking at Joël Robuchon's version, I was intimidated. All this double boiler, clarified butter, see page 82 kind of talk. So I looked up Julia Child's recipe, and it didn't disappoint. Simple and well-explained, it guided me through the whole process. Other than spilling some on myself while stirring, there were no disasters! I would even say it was easy, and I will definitely be doing it again (and again and again).

I simmered the salmon for several minutes in a court bouillon of parsley stems, onion, and lemon slices, then removed it from the heat to allow it to keep cooking in the hot water, leaving it just barely done in the center. Then I drained it.

I poached the eggs in water with vinegar, and I tried the swirling the water technique, and even using a huge pot, but my poached eggs always turn out ugly. So, I just suck up my pride, wind their spindly white bits around them, and drain them briefly on paper towels. It still tastes good. Plus, they get covered with sauce in this dish anyway.

I assembled all the parts on the toasted bread with some chopped parsley, and this is what I got.

The yolks were nicely runny, the salmon just cooked, the sauce fantastic, if I do say so myself. It made for one whopping serving of eggs benedict (I even made two poached eggs per person, to have enough runny yolk or the whole dish). But we cleaned our plates.

Now we just have to figure out to do with the extra sauce...

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