Thursday, January 23, 2014
Lawrence brunch spots
Where are your favorite places to get an eggs Benedict? Take a look at our map below and submit your favorite place.
If you don't like eggs, this isn't the story for you.
Culinary folklore tells how the suave, flamboyant stockbroker Lemuel Benedict stumbles into the old Waldorf Hotel one New York morning in 1894. Battling a hangover, he orders buttered toast, bacon, two poached eggs and some hollandaise.
Legend has it that the well-known maitre d' of the Waldorf, Oscar, was so impressed by this dish that he put it on the menu, with a few tweaks, and called it eggs Benedict after its inventor.
Today, it's a brunch staple. One can find the food (sometimes nicknamed "Benny") sitting happily next to breakfast potatoes, extra bacon, bloody Marys and mimosas. And Lawrence has enough brunch spots to keep you busy trying different eggs Benedicts for weeks.
Good ol' Benny
If you've never had eggs Benedict, it's a pretty simple meal. Let's break down this breakfast stack, layer by layer:
- English muffins halves: This was one of the tweaks Oscar made to Lemuel Benedict's original order. Toasted and buttery is best.
- Ham: Another tweak from Oscar the Waldorf maitre d', these little circles of bacon, Canadian or otherwise, tack on some savory protein.
- Poached egg: The hallmark of a delicious eggs Benedict is slicing open the egg and watching the yolk flow into the hollandaise and absorb into the English muffin. "You have to enjoy having your yellows a little bit runny," said Kenny Pingleton, co-owner of The Roost, 920 Massachusetts St.
- Hollandaise sauce: This creamy emulsification of egg yolk, butter and lemon with pepper tops it off, like syrup on a short stack. Brandon Hubbard, the back house manager at the Mirth Cafe, said their patrons love the sauce. "We can put our hollandaise on anything," he said.
- Bonus: Most restaurants offer a side dish, like a salad, breakfast potatoes or fruit.
From standard to new-age
The Mirth Cafe, 947 New Hampshire St., offers specialty Benedicts, but its traditional Benny deserves honorable mention: crispy, buttery English muffins, savory ham, delicious hollandaise (you really can put it on everything) and eggs poached to perfection.
Milton's, 901 New Hampshire St., offers several types of Benedicts as well, but the most unique choice is a combination that rings a bit truer to Lemuel Benedict's original invention. Instead of ham, the Blackstone Benedict features strips of bacon plus a slice of tomato.
One of the great things about a tried and true favorite is putting a spin on it. This breakfast is no exception. Chefs swap out different pieces to jazz it up, but the most fun is changing the meat. While all the following restaurants offer the classic eggs Benedict, they also add their own twists.
A common substitution in the Benedict world is adding salmon instead of ham. The Roost, 920 Massachusetts St., makes a great version of this. The salmon is different enough from the ham to kick up the Benedict experience, but still has that breakfasty, salty, meaty-yet-light essence.
Continue the seafaring brunch adventure at Mariscos, 4821 W. Sixth St., with the Blue Crab Benedict. I'll admit I don't think about seared crab cakes for breakfast but it's a delightful mix of flavors. The slight sweetness of the crab comes through, and covering it in yolk reminds me of dunking meat into melted butter.
715 restaurant, 715 Massachusetts St., goes further to switch out the English muffin and the ham to create a smoked trout Benedict. The eggs and hollandaise sit atop chickpea cakes and rainbow trout, topped with capers and red onions (you can only get this fun brunch on weekends). It's smokey, light and bursting with a collection of bright and exciting flavors.
From the original to the newer twists, it's easy to see why people enjoy a hearty eggs Benedict (it even has an entire day dedicated to it ). And maybe it's the Waldorf roots, but it does seem like one orders this meal for a purpose, like enjoying breakfast at a fancy hotel or trying to nurse a hangover.
But whatever the reason, the filling and hearty feeling eggs Benedict leaves behind makes it an ultimate comfort food.
Make it at home
Making eggs Benedict is kind of like putting together a sandwich: Gather all the items then stack them. But what makes it special is the bit of virtuosity involved, particularly in making the eggs perfect.
"Eggs are a pretty delicate thing," said Kenny Pingleton, co-owner of The Roost. "It's an art to have your eggs just right and your hollandaise sauces just right," especially when you're a busy chef and have 15 to 20 people waiting for a meal.
But for us home cooks, it's a skill that comes with practice and it only takes a minute or two.
Bring water to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of vinegar (this helps congeal the whites and keep them together). Let eggs sit for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how runny you want the yolks to be. Lift the egg out with a slotted spoon.
Your experience (or a Google search) will help you tweak the process to your liking. Some other tips and options:
- Turn the heat off as the egg cooks
- Drop a Mason jar ring into the saucepan to contain the egg
- Use alternative vinegars, like rice vinegar
- Make sure the egg is well-drained before plating
- Take all the work out and purchase an egg poacher