Then I saw a tweet about April 16th being National Eggs Benedict Day. I bet you know what happened next . . . Eggs Benedict means hollandaise sauce, and hollandaise sauce means . . . BUTTER! Classic eggs Benedict consists of half of an English muffin, topped with a slice of ham or Canadian bacon, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. I decided to make a version with a Japanese twist. Instead of an English muffin, I made a yaki-onigiri base—a rice ball that is lightly grilled.
Instead of a slice of ham or Canadian bacon, I used sauteed slices of fresh shiitake mushrooms.
For the poached egg, I switched out the chicken egg and went with a poached quail egg.
And finally the hollandaise sauce. I didn’t do much to this sauce, except for using lime juice instead of lemon juice. I must admit that I made my hollandaise in the blender. In my defense, I did it because Julia Child said I could. Check pages 79 and 81 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, and you will find the words: “It is extremely easy and almost fool proof to make in the electric blender . . . [and] as the technique is well within the capabilities of an 8-year old child, it has much to recommend it.” For a busy mother of two young children, those are glorious words to read. Good butter is essential to a delicious hollandaise sauce. With butter being one of the main ingredients, the sauce is highly affected by the flavor of the butter that you use. I like Challenge Dairy’s European Butter because it is rich and creamy with great flavor.
The whole creation was finished off with a sprinkling of fresh chives. Because I used poached quail eggs, this version of eggs Benedict makes mini servings (Challenge Butter must also induce miniature-itis). I’ve affectionately named them Quail Eggs Benedict Pagodas, because they’re stacked a bit higher than traditional eggs Benedict, like little edible pagodas.
Yaki-onigiri aren’t too difficult. First you start out by making the onigiri–the rice ball. I’ve posted a tutorial on how to do this, but here’s a quick refresher: I grab a measuring cup, some sturdy plastic wrap, a clean spray bottle filled with water, and some salt. I line the measuring cup with a large square of the plastic wrap, spray the plastic wrap lightly with water, and then sprinkle it with salt.
Then I place about 2 tablespoons of freshly steamed Japanese rice in to the measuring cup,
then gather the sides of the plastic wrap up around the rice,
and begin applying firm, but gentle pressure to form the rice into a cohesive ball. For this dish, I flatted the balls slightly so that it would be easy to layer the ingredients on top of them.
I then heated a bit of oil in a frying pan and lightly browned the rice balls on both sides.
Poaching the quail eggs is quick—just remember to crack them carefully into the boiling water. It’s much easier to puncture the yolk when the egg is so small!
Quail Eggs Benedict Pagodas
Makes 8 “Pagodas”
1 cup cooked Japanese rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1. Cut a large square of plastic wrap and rest it over a measuring cup. Lightly spray the plastic wrap with the water, and then sprinkle it with a bit of salt (the water helps the salt stick). Then spoon 2 tablespoons of the rice into the cup. Gather the plastic wrap up around the rice, then twist the plastic wrap, sealing the rice inside, and firmly press the rice into a slightly flattened ball shape (don’t press too hard or the rice will become mushy). Unwrap the ball, set it on a plate and repeat the process with the rest of the rice.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet, then place four of the rice balls in the skillet flattened side down. When the rice ball has browned slightly, flip it over and brown the other flattened side. Repeat with the other 4 rice balls. *VARIATION: You can brush the rice balls with a small amount of soy sauce after browning them for a bit of added flavor.
Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms:
4 large shiitake mushrooms thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the mushrooms and toss them for several minutes in the skillet/wok until they are cooked through and browned. Remove the skillet/wok from the heat and transfer the mushrooms to a separate container so that they do not continue to cook.
Poached quail eggs:
8 quail eggs
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer. Gently break the quail eggs, one by one, into the simmering water and let them poach for 1 minute.
2. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
Lime Hollandaise Sauce:
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I, p. 81 — 2
Makes about 3/4 cup sauce
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cut into small pieces
1. Place the egg yolks, salt, pepper, and lime juice in the blender jar. (Do not blend yet!)
2. Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat until the butter is foaming.
3. Blend the egg yolk mixture at top speed for 2 seconds, and then with the blender running, remove the cover and pour the hot butter into the blender in a thing stream of droplets. By the time two-thirds of the butter has been added, the sauce should be a thick cream. Continue pouring, but do not pour in the milk residue that is in the bottom of the pan. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings.
Assembling the pagodas: Place several slices of sauteed mushrooms on top of each rice ball. Remove the quail eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and set one on top of each of the rice balls. Top each rice ball with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce and a sprinkling of chopped chives.
* VARIATION: For a less-formal version, serve everything over a bed of rice, and use a poached chicken egg in place of the quail egg.