When we were in Charleston recently I was intrigued when I saw some very unusual versions of Eggs Benedict on restaurant menus. At our local diner alone there was a choice between Crab Stuffed Avocado Benedict and Oyster Rockefeller Benedict. Hmm. I declined both of these, though the oysters sounded interesting. Photo left: tomatos in your Eggs Benedict? It's the French way.
Which got me thinking about the origins of Eggs Benedict (American), and of Hollandaise sauce (French and Dutch) as well.
Turns out Eggs Benedict was first whipped up by a chef in New York, who made it for a certain Mr. Benedict. He asked the chef to make him a breakfast that would cure his hangover (delicious, but a dubious remedy). Much earlier, Hollandaise sauce was reportedly developed by a French chef, who decided to create his own version of a Dutch sauce to serve to a visiting king of the Netherlands.
It seems that every country (not to mention every state in the union) has its own version of Eggs Benedict. The Scandinavian and British countries use smoked salmon instead of ham or Canadian Bacon, and call it Eggs Atlantic, or Eggs Benjamin. In Maryland, crab cakes are the answer. Russians add black cavair. There is a Huevos Benedict, with avocado and salsa. On Charleston menus, I found these variations: Chipolte Pulled Pork Benedict, Spicy Sausage Benedict, Fried Green Tomato Crab Benedict, Black Bean Benedict with Salsa Verde, Shrimp Benedict with Tomato Béarnaise, and a REALLY southern one, Fried Chicken Benedict on Biscuits with Honey-Dijon Hollandaise. Oh la la.
And of course there is a French version. Eggs Provençal substitutes Sauce Béarnaise for the hollandaise. There are many versions of this southern France dish, most involving les tomates in some fashion. This is the one I came up with, featuring roasted tomatoes and asparagus.
RECIPE: Eggs Benedict Provençal
For this dish I used Ina Garten’s 10-minute blender Béarnaise sauce (though I cut back the tarragon a bit).
For 6 servings:
- 6 English muffins
- 6 roma tomatos, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch asparagus
- a dozen eggs
- one recipe Sauce Béarnaise, as above
Heat oven to 400F (200C).
Put tomato slices in a bowl and toss gently with a tablespoon of olive oil plus salt and pepper. Put a Silpat or parchment paper on a half-sheet pan; spread tomatoes out in a single layer on half the pan. Place asparagus on the other half, drizzle with remaining oil, add salt and pepper, and toss lightly to coat.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and asparagus is tender, but start checking at 10 minutes; if asparagus are thin they will cook more quickly and you’ll need to remove them to a plate.
Meanwhile, make Bérnaise sauce and set aside. Poach eggs in simmering water while toasting muffins.
To serve, arrange vegetables on top of muffins, top each half with an egg, and nap with sauce. Garnish with chopped grape tomatoes or fresh herbs. And good luck with that hangover!
In the COMMENTS: Jetagain makes a great point--renting is better and easier, if you didn't get the renovation gene! Martin fills us in on the inheritance laws, laws that we would consider restrictive. Martin, new laws make it possible to get around this now, but it's complicated to do. Any perspective buyer should read Julie's account of her buying experience, which was in the city instead of the countryside; and Katherine has sage advice for you as well. Patricia, you got SO lucky, and what a super house!
Favorite Reads: From reader Sue Wallace, here's a fascinating reccomendation: Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, about a historic moment in the crossroads of American and French culture.