Key lime...crab... poached eggs...oh my!
Have you ever had a dish on vacation that was so good that you had to order it again and again until it was time to return home? That's what happened to my husband a couple of years ago when he tasted Eggs Benedict with a Key Lime Hollandaise at the St. Regis in Bal Harbour, Florida. He asked me if I could make this at home, and with that I was on a mission. I developed the following recipe to recall those tastes and textures, to bring back the Florida feeling and flavors. After just one bite, you'll be transported!
Essential equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; paring knife; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; microplane; large stock pot; wooden spoon; deep casserole dish or basin; small ramekins or bowls; slotted spoon; scissors; large sauté pan; medium saucepan; large mixing bowl; whisk
1 pound baby spinach
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 English muffins
kosher salt & ground black pepper
Poached Egg Ingredients:
8 large eggs
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
Key Lime Hollandaise Ingredients:
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
2 cups clarified butter *
zest of 1 lime or 4 Key limes
2-3 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
kosher salt and white pepper
* To make the clarified butter, place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, simmer the butter over low heat while skimming the foam as it rises to the top. Solids will fall to the bottom of the pan; leave them there. When foam no longer comes to the top, remove the butter from the heat. Pour off the clarified butter, leaving the white solids behind. A bit of clarified butter might remain with the solids, which you can strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, if desired.
1. Fill a large stockpot three quarters full with water. Add ¼ cup distilled white vinegar. Set heat to high and let water come to a low simmer, approximately 180°F.
ILOC tip: do not salt the poaching water. Salt will break up an egg white, whereas the vinegar will help to set it.
2. Meanwhile, sauté the spinach. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the spinach, sprinkle with kosher salt, and sauté until wilted and the moisture has mostly evaporated. Set aside, along with the crab.
3. Fill a deep dish or container with cold water and set aside.
4. Crack two eggs at a time into two ramekins. Once the water is simmering, hold the two ramekins as close to the water as possible and swiftly release the eggs into the water. Swirl the water around the eggs by moving a wooden spoon in a circular motion around the internal perimeter of the stockpot. Cook the eggs for 3 minutes, until the white is fully set.
5. Lift the eggs from the simmering water, one at a time, using a slotted spoon. Place the eggs in the deep casserole or container of cold water. Repeat Steps 4 & 5 three more times with the remaining 6 eggs.
"Placing the poached eggs in the cold water serves many functions, including setting the egg to stop it from cooking further so the yolk is runny, and to remove any residue of vinegar taste from the egg."
6. Using kitchen scissors and impeccably clean hands, trim each poached egg of any stringy, excess white and return to the basin of water.
7. Now prepare the hollandaise sauce which begins with making a sabayon (cooked, whipped egg) over a bain-marie (double boiler). Set a medium saucepan filled one quarter with water over high heat. Bring the water to a simmer and turn the heat to low.
8. While the water comes to a simmer, select a bowl that will sit on the pan of simmering water without touching the water. Add 2 egg yolks in that bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Set the bowl over the pan with the simmering water and whisk continuously for 3 minutes to make the sabayon. The mixture should be light and airy. If the egg yolks scramble, discard and begin again.
9. Once the sabayon has been made, remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water. With whisk in one hand and a vessel of clarified butter in the other, add the clarified butter to the sabayon, in a slow, steady stream, while whisking constantly.
"If the clarified butter is added too quickly, the hollandaise will break. If it is added too slowly, the sauce will never emulsify and form."
9. The hollandaise will be creamy but light. Add the fresh key lime juice, season with kosher salt, and white pepper (optional).
10. Warm the poached eggs for 2-3 minutes by setting them in the pot of water used for the bain-marie.
11. Meanwhile, toast the English muffins.
12. To assemble a plate of Eggs Benedict, place two English muffin halves on a plate, cut side up. Place a spoonful of spinach on each half, followed by a spoonful of crab on each half. Squeeze fresh key lime juice over the crab and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top each garnished English muffin with a warmed poached egg. Season each egg with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon hollandaise over each egg and sprinkle generously with lime zest.
13. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Makes 4 servings.