Thursday, June 18, 2009

Salad for Breakfast

I feel like I have come to visit the Emerald City and have had a pair of green-tinged spectacles locked onto my face. There are edible green and reddish-green leaves everywhere, thanks to a great season at the CSA to which we subscribe. It has even prompted me to change the colors on this page. I had always intended to modify the colors of fonts and lines on The Messy Apron to reflect the season, since my cooking and food commentary have a decidedly seasonal theme. Just now, all green seemed more than appropriate.

I have to admit, though, there were a few meals over the last week that did not include a salad. Perhaps I put some lettuce on a hamburger or sprinkled some over a cornbread pizza with ground grass-fed beef. But only salad uses up lettuces in the volume I require, so I have some catching up to do. I’m expecting that any night now, I’ll be having a nightmare about an ever-growing head of lettuce in a “Little Shop of Horrors” role, but, in a Bizarro-like twist, it’s shouting “Eat Me!” rather than “Feed Me!”

There seemed to be only one way to get through all of this beautiful embarrassment of lettuce riches. I was going to have to start eating salad for breakfast.

Right away, I thought of modifying Eggs Benedict. I was surprised to find a recipe or two for an Eggs Benedict salad, or at least something similar, so I borrowed what I wanted, and simplified things a bit. I could easily make English muffins into croutons by just tearing them up and baking them. The rich Hollandaise sauce could easily double as a salad dressing, especially if I made it lemony and mustardy. I had some deli ham, which could stand in for Canadian bacon well enough for me. There was only one problem. I had never poached an egg in my life. Oh well, I’m not getting any younger and it’s never too late to learn (or, perhaps you can’t teach an old dog new tricks).

If you have a reliable Hollandaise sauce recipe, by all means use that here. I like this one because it’s easy and flavorful for a salad. If you already know how to poach an egg better than I do, which is likely, ignore my inexperienced instructions. When I put my eggs in the simmering water, they just sunk to the bottom of the pan and stuck there. Luckily, they were actually quite resilient, and I could salvage them pretty easily. You could also just fry eggs (I’ve done this before to make Eggs Benedict) or even use hard boiled eggs if you happen to have them. Just skip the ham or Canadian bacon, and this is vegetarian.

Eggs Benedict Salad
I’ve written this for 4 servings, because I could conveniently make 4 servings of Hollandaise.

For the Hollandaise sauce
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of each salt and pepper

For the salad
2 English muffins
4 eggs
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
4 slices deli ham or Canadian bacon
4 cups salad greens

1. To make the croutons, preheat oven to 400 F. Tear the English muffins into bite-size pieces and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 F until golden brown and crunchy. During the last few minutes, place the ham or Canadian bacon on the baking sheet and warm through.

2. To make the Hollandaise sauce, whisk the egg yolks and mustard in a medium heat-proof bowl that will fit over a medium saucepan (to make a double boiler). Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in the saucepan. Place the bowl over the top. The steam from the simmering water should heat the bowl (do not boil the water hard), but the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk the butter into the egg yolk mixture one piece at a time until it melts into the mixture. Repeat with all remaining pieces of butter, whisking almost constantly. The result should be a thickened sauce that is paler in color than the egg yolks were. (If you are concerned about egg safety, test the sauce with a thermometer, and make sure it is heated to 140 F for at least 3 minutes.) Whisk in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Keep sauce warm over the simmering water until needed.

3. To poach the eggs, bring a large pot or pan of water (4 inches deep or more) and the vinegar to a simmer. Do not boil hard. Carefully remove each egg from its shell and into a small container. Gently pour each egg into the simmering water. Simmer until the egg is opaque but still soft.

4. Place 1 cup salad greens onto each of four plates. Arrange ham and croutons on the greens. Carefully remove the poached eggs from the simmering water with a slotted spoon. Place one on each plate. Pour about 2 tablespoons Hollandaise sauce over each salad.

Serves 4

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