Benedictine

Benedict Arnold, patriot, traitor, and shady businessman*, died on June 14th, 1801, six months too early to make the obituary section of the New York Evening Post. What better way to commemorate that day than by having Eggs Benedict for breakfast? Herewith, some recipes:

Traditional, recipe is at the bottom

Alton Brown, recipe is at the top

Japanese, recipe is a long way from home

Of course, there’s no need to remain bound to tradition. What about Apples Benedict, as mentioned in Jasper Fforde’s Well of Lost Plots? After all, Arnold was from Connecticut, a big apple centre at the time. Now, I don’t have a recipe. Well, yes, I do. It’s official and all, but it’s nothing like I’d envisage Apples Benedict as. You see, they chop up the apples and make applesauce. How would you like your Eggs Benedict made with scrambled eggs? That’s just a high-end Egg McMuffin. So my Apples Benedict calls for slicing them, like they were, you know, Canadian bacon. The key I think is the sauce. There is, I guess, always Hollandaise, just to be sure, or even its uncooked cousin from Mayon, but will either of those go with apples, and if not, what might substitute? Well, cheese might, for a ham n cheese experience. Or maybe maple syrup, which would make it more like breakfast pancakes.

Experiment 1: I sliced and cored a Fuji apple, heated a couple rounds of pre-cooked Canadian bacon, and toasted an English muffin. Put the CB in a frying pan to heat (don’t plan to get any cooking fat off them ’cause Canadians are lean). When the muffin was toast, I put on some butter and the CB, then put two apple slices in the same pan. Cooked them on medium to medium-low for about ten minutes, turning occasionally. About halfway through I added a glug of apple juice, to help get some steam up. Assembled them: muffin:CB:apple, then added a pinch of shredded cheese as the sauce, and popped them back in the toaster oven on a tray.
Result 1: Pretty good, but not what I was looking for. All the elements mixed, but the cheese solidified immediately. The apples needed slightly more cooking, but I was already at the end of my patience. Mayhaps thirty seconds in the microwave, to get them in the mood. My goal was a slice that was cooked through, but not falling apart.

Experiment 2: Let’s go cheap and quick all the way. Zot everything except the muffins in the microwave for three minutes. Use Cheese Whiz.
Result 2: I’ve had worse. The Cheese Whiz brought back childhood memories. It still wasn’t saucy enough. The microwave thing worked well, so I can go back to simplicity again.

Experiment 3: Well, what about Hollandaise sauce? Great idea, except we don’t got any. But from a cheminary standpoint, Mayonnaise is almost a Hollandaise. Hollandaise is a cooked egg yolk/butter emulsion. Mayonnaise is an uncooked emulsion made from egg yolk and oil  (since you can’t use hot butter). Hollandaise also has cayenne. OK, let’s put some cayenne in Mayonnaise and heat it in the micro.
Result 3: Not bad at all. Too much cayenne, which overwhelmed all the other flavors, but it stayed nice and saucy, and places where the cayenne thinned out it tasted pretty good.

Experiment 4: Tried real Hollandaise this time, straight from the can (if I gotta cook, I ain’t doing it).
Result 4: Not bad. Not great. More lemony than the Mayonnaise version. Thinner, with just a hint of cayenne. I think I liked the Mayo better.

Experiment 5: So, why not concentrate on making the Mayonnaise taste more like Hollandaise? I took the same amount of Mayo (almost half a cup, remember, there’s two muffin halves), a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a short, sharp, shake of cayenne. Since we’re not cooking this, I can taste as I go. Taste said, just a bit more cayenne, but not a lot. Heat everything in the microwave. Serve.
Result 5: Very good. low cholesterol. I think this is my go-to version.

Experiment 6: Let’s finish up with a sweet. How about authentic New England maple syrup, right from Bennie’s home state? OK, how about whatever syrup is available in the fridge? The choice is between Safeway Maple-like Syrup Substance and Jim Beam Pancake Syrup Byproduct. Since every English muffin comes with two halves, Let’s try both.
Result 6: Very good, but not Benedictine. Too thin. Still, this is the kind of breakfast that General Arnold might have eaten in the field, before going out to sell West Point.

After long thought, I have deduced some General Benedictine Concepts:

  1. Must be on English muffins. Croissants just won’t do
  2. Must involve a salty pork product
  3. Must use a namesake that is, or can be, shaped into circular…shapes…, in order to fit on the muffins — eggs, apples, pineapples.
  4. Must use a sauce. Should it be a Hollandaise sauce? Probably. I mean, you wouldn’t change the sauce if you went from eggs Florentine to spinach Florentine, would you?
  5. On the other hand, must use a sauce that doesn’t clash with the namesake, but keep it as close to the Hollandaise as you can.

*well, two out of three isn’t bad

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