Princess Eggs Benedict

Maybe I was just a strange child, but I've always loved asparagus.  It's flavor is so unique and much more profound that most other green vegetables.  Combine it with hollandaise sauce, and what is there not to love?  If my 5 year old self had known that this version of eggs benedict is most often referred to as the "princess variation," I'm pretty sure I would have point blank refused to eat anything else for breakfast.  Luckily for my waistline, a good hollandaise sauce requires care and an attention to detail I'm usually lacking early in the morning.  It is therefore a treat reserved strictly for Sunday brunch.

Hollandaise Sauce
makes 1 cup
1/2 tsp Peppercorns, crushed (white looks best in the finished sauce)
2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp Water
2 Egg yolks
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 1/3 C Clarified butter, warm
Salt and White Pepper To taste
Cayenne Pepper To taste

1) Combine the peppercorns, vinegar, and water in a small saucepan and reduce by about one half
2) Place the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl and add the vinegar and pepper reduction. There should be 1 tbsp of the reduction for each egg yolk used.
3) Place the bowl over a pot with about 1 inch of simmering water in the bottom whipping the mixture continuously with a wire whip.
4) As the yolks cook, the mixture will thicken.  When the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail across the the surface when the whip is drawn away, remove the bowl from the double boiler.  Do not overcook the egg yolks as this may cause the hollandaise to break and separate later.
5) Whip in about half of the lemon juice to stop the yolks from cooking
6) Begin to add the warm clarified butter to the egg yolk mixture a few drops at a time, while constantly whipping the mixture to form an emulsion. Continue until all the butter is incorporated
7) Whip in the remaining lemon juice.  Adjust the seasonings.

If you're feeling lazy you do not NEED to clarify your butter in order to make hollandaise sauce.  However, clarified butter will yield a more stable and consistent product with a cleaner flavor than whole butter would.

To clarify butter:
slowly warm the butter in a saucepan over low heat without boiling or agitation.  As the butter melts, the milk solids rise to the top as a foam, and the water sinks to the bottom
When the butter is completely melted, skim the milk solids from the top.
When all the milk solids have been removed, ladle the butterfat into a clean saucepan, being careful to leave the bottom of the pan
Clarifying butter will give about a 75% yield (1 lb clarified is about 3/4 lb)
Clarified butter will keep for extended periods in either the freezer or the refrigerator

Eggs Benedict Princess Variation
1 serving
4 pieces of asparagus
2 eggs
1 english muffin
1 Tbsp vinegar
Hollandaise Sauce

1) Cut the tips of the asparagus to be just slightly larger than the width of the english muffin, and then slice the tips in half lengthwise.
2) Lightly grease the bottom of a pan over medium heat, and place the asparagus tips sliced (flat) side down on the pan.
3)Cook the tips, moving every so often to prevent burning, until they are tender.
4) Meanwhile, boil a small point of water adding about 1 Tbps vinegar to the cooking water. 
5) Break the egg into a small bowl (one bowl for each egg).
6) When water reaches a rolling boil, pour the egg directly into the water (cook only 1 egg at a time)
7) When egg begins to float, and the egg white appears to have solidified, use a slotted spoon to remove the egg from the water, and repeat with other egg.
8) Split and toast an english muffin, then place the cooked asparagus tips, 4 halves per each, on top.  Add the poached egg, and top with hollandaise sauce as desired.

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