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Eggs Benedict is Catalina’s all-time favourite brunch item. If it’s on the menu, she’s ordering it. If I’m being entirely honest, I love it too. Soft-poached eggs on a toasted English muffin, covered in Hollandaise sauce! Come on! It’s heavenly! There are a million and one variations of Eggs Benedict but our favourites are the ‘Florentine’ versions, which typically include a bed of sautéed spinach and smoked salmon! Get in my belly!
We used to go out for brunch regularly on the weekends. Catalina never sits down for breakfast during the week because she’s out the door by 7am. So on her days off she likes to take advantage of a lazy morning that involves sleeping in, at least three cups of coffee in bed, and a big, indulgent brunch. I, on the other hand, have the luxury of working from home, oftentimes with food, and eat very well during the week! But, I learned long ago that a happy wife is a happy life! So, I’m perfectly fine with going for brunch on the weekends if that’s what she wants to do.
That is, until Toronto’s brunch scene exploded and got completely out of hand. In the past 8-10 years, maybe even longer, people in this city have become brunch-crazed and restaurants are taking full advantage. Lineups are around the corner and since most restaurants don’t take brunch reservations you can end up waiting over an hour to be seated. Not an ideal situation for anyone that is eating their first meal at noon. To add salt to the wound, a lot of the trendy brunch spots in the city are really nothing special, serving up over-priced eggs and waffles and pressuring you to hurry up and leave so that the server can flip your table. We can do much better at home!
As much as it pains her, even Catalina has lost interest in going out for brunch. We might go once or twice a month, if that. The rest of the time I get to flex my brunch muscles – which I prefer anyways. This Eggs Benedict recipe is just one example and if you happen to find yourself relating to the first world problems I describe above, you’ll love it. It’s a classic Eggs Benedict but with a Paleo/Whole30 twist that is both indulgent and falls completely in line with all of the guidelines of both dietary protocols. I’m not kidding when I say this is a rich dish. The sweet potato hash browns require generous amounts of avocado oil to ensure crispiness and the Hollandaise calls for 8 tbsp of ghee! So, if you’re put off by the idea of consuming that much fat in the morning or early afternoon, you may want to just skip the sauce altogether. Maybe take solace in the fact that the entire thing sits on a bed of smashed avocado and has a poached egg? Or just make my Shakshuka.
I should also mention here that the techniques for poaching the eggs and making the Hollandaise were sourced from Kenji López-Alt. He is a culinary mastermind and until I followed the sage advice provided in his book, The Food Lab, I was destroying more eggs in water baths than I care to admit. I highly recommend getting a copy of his book. It’s of biblical proportions and a very useful resource for any home cook.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
Step-by-Step Eggs Benedict – Paleo/Whole30
INGREDIENTS: (serves 4)
1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato
cayenne pepper – for garnish
fresh chives – finely chopped – for garnish
1/3 cup white vinegar
for the Hollandaise sauce:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
1 tsp lemon juice
for the Sweet Potato Hash Browns:
- Peel sweet potato and grate using the large blades of a box grater. Place grated sweet potato in a cheese cloth or nut milk bag and squeeze out as much liquid as humanly possible. Transfer drained sweet potato to a large bowl or tray.
- Heat two tablespoons of avocado oil in a large, non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Carefully add small handfuls (approx. 1/4 cup) of grated sweet potato to the skillet. Use a spatula to lightly flatten the top of each mound and tidy the edges to form a circular shape. **Note: do not overcrowd the pan or you will have a hard time flipping the hash browns.
- Drizzle the top of each has brown with a bit more of avocado oil. Fry approximately 4 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy.
- Transfer fried sweet potatoes to a dish lined with paper towel and season immediately with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Set in oven to keep warm while you prepare the eggs.
for the Poached Eggs (technique adapted from Kenji López-Alt, The Food Lab):
- Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a gentle simmer and add vinegar.
- Crack an egg into a fine-meshed sieve set over a bowl and give it a swirl to separate any of the scraggly whites. Using a large spoon, start swirling the water in the pot to create a vortex. While the water is swirling, carefully add the eggs one at a time. Repeat until all eggs are in the pot. Cook until the egg whites are set and the yolk is still soft. Stir occasionally to avoid the egg coming into contact with the bottom of the pot.
- Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove each egg, making sure not to puncture the yolk. Transfer poached eggs to a dish lined with a kitchen towel.
for the Hollandaise Sauce:
- Add ghee to a sauce pan set over medium heat and melt completely. Transfer to a measuring cup or small bowl with a spout.
- Add water, lemon juice, egg yolk and a pinch of salt to a narrow cup or mason jar that is slightly wider than the head of an immersion blender.
- Centre the head of the immersion blender over the egg yolk and turn it on (use the lower setting if you have multiple speeds). While the immersion blender is continuously running, slowly add the melted ghee in a very slow stream until everything has been emulsified.
**Note: If you overwork the Hollandaise sauce and it becomes too thick, simply add a teaspoon or two of warm water and blend until it becomes smooth and creamy.
- Spoon half an avocado into the centre of a serving dish. Use a fork to mash it directly on the plate.
- Lay the sweet potato hash brown overtop of the smashed avocado.
- Place the poached egg on top of the hash brown.
- Spoon the hollandaise overtop of the poached egg.
- Garnish with a dash of cayenne pepper and finely chopped chives.