This post is about the making of a sandwich. Michael Ruhlman’s eggs Benedict from scratch, to be specific. When he posted about it the day before this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge (hot smoking) was announced, I wondered if smoked bacon might figure and was delighted that it did! Neil and I decided to smoke some salmon as well as bacon, and since neither our barbecue or oven will go to a low enough temperature to cold smoke, we were thrilled that the Apprentice Challenge was to hot smoke some salmon.
It’s a pretty easy process. First you cure the salmon in salt and spices/ flavourings. We followed the recipe in Charcuterie using kosher salt, pink salt, dark brown sugar, pepper, all spice, bay leaves, cloves and mace. Since I was responsible for this and my head still isn’t quite right, I forgot the rum 🙁 Next time…
I am not a huge salmon fan (in fact, I really dislike it), but tasted it anyway. It tasted… too fishy for me. I served the rest of it to Neil with the remainder of Dorie Greenspan’s quinoa, fruit and nut salad (that was very pretty!) and then on top of Nigella’s potato cakes with a dollop of sour cream:
Next up, the Charcuterie Challenge – hot smoked bacon.
We have smoked bacon before – coincidentally for another Michael Ruhlman “from scratch” challenge – the BLT – with some success but we do not own a proper smoker. We looked at various ones recommended by the Charcutepalooza crew but even our tiny pork loin wouldn’t fit in the one that was within our budget (they were very shallow and, well, a pork loin is round…) and we simply do not have the space for a larger one. As we were leaving the store, I spied something that we may well be kicked out of Charcutepalooza for 1. Thinking about, 2. Purchasing and 3. Using (with much success!):
Sorry… (and I am not an Emeril fan. At all). But you know what? It worked. It’s a foil bag with the seasoning – hickory – inside already that you put your meat or fish or whatever in and smoke it in your oven or on a BBQ. Since our BBQ was already smoking the salmon, we used the oven. There was a bit of residual smell in the house the next day but it wasn’t too bad. So for $14 for three bags (enough for tons of bacon) this was a good option.
The pork loin is brined for48 hours – we used sage, thyme, sugar, pink salt, kosher salt, and garlic in our brine, as per Charcuterie. You can find Ruhlman’s post on Canadian bacon here.
After it was done in its brine bath, we rinsed it and then it sat in the fridge overnight. Then we were ready to test out the dodgy looking Emeril smoker bags…
Well Ruhlman’s eggs Benedict from scratch was calling my name. We’ve made hollandaise sauce before too (Neil is pretty good at making it) so I just had to figure out the English muffins.
The first time I made them, I followed Ruhlman’s recipe and used muffin rings with some success:
I cooked these the same day I did the dough (resting it for an hour) and they were somewhat… doughy. Proper English muffins that I grew up with (that were just called muffins since there were no cake-type muffins on the scene back then) didn’t have those holes in them and they just didn’t feel or taste right. They didn’t taste bad, just wrong.
The next time I made them, I did the dough the night before, and brought it out an hour before I was to cook them. After an hour, the dough was still cold and hard as a rock and I despaired. I set it aside and came back to it after a couple of hours (total resting time out of fridge = 3 hours) and it was malleable and able to be divided up into muffin-sized pieces. I went free-form this time, using 1/4 cup of the dough for each muffin (I used more when I did the rings because I felt like I needed to fill them).
These ones were MUCH better – much more like what I remember English muffins to be like in both taste and texture:
All that was left to do was make the hollandaise, cook the bacon and poach a couple of eggs.
I actually followed Ruhlman’s recipe for hollandaise from Ratio word for word and ended up ditching the lot. It had way too much butter in it and never thickened (you can find his post about hollandaise sauce here). Neil came to my rescue (he was poaching the eggs and they were done and the muffins were toasted and the bacon was cooked and I was like “My photos – it’s a disaster!”). Neil stepped in and made the hollandaise with no recipe, eyeballing the ingredients. And it was perfect. I am very lucky!
UPDATE: Michael asked me on Twitter this morning “How can there be too much butter?” To which I replied “I know, right?” Sounds ludicrous. But 2 sticks of butter for 3 yolks just was too much. The yolks, admittedly, were on the small side. Since I have always just watched Neil make the sauce, I didn’t trust my judgment and just kept on adding the butter, even as the sauce got more and more watery. So I don’t know what happened there. I will definitely make it again, following those instructions and make a note of what happens when. But for those of you who have made it from scratch before, you know there is not much time to take notes or photos 😉
I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the satisfaction that we did everything but raise the pig and chicken (oh and the cow for the butter..) made it taste extra special. I loved this challenge because it made me make English muffins. And eat them with bacon and eggs and velvety hollandaise.
** Don’t forget to check out next month’s “Forever Nigella” event – I’m hosting a street party in honour of the Royal Wedding and would love for you to join me. All the details here.