Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's that heavenly smell?

Name something the majority of us consume everyday - some of us every 2 hours.  Here are some hints, it's used as a flavouring in sweets, cakes, meats, savoury sauces?  No idea yet.  Well we all know the smell whether we consume it or not and 99% of us smell it first thing in the morning.  No not yet?  We pay pennies for it, pay a lot for it.  Black, cream, sugar, vanilla flavour shot, lots of foam, no foam, double sweet medium temperature, a little extra water, strong, weak, decaf...Well you have got to be kidding me if you haven't figured out yet that I'm talking about coffee!

The history of coffee is long and sordid.  Thought to have originated in Ethopia but maybe not.  The name might have come from the Turkish "Kawha" - meaning "wine of the bean" (from Wikipedia).  However what we all know about coffee is how much we take it for granted in our every day life - until the unspeakable happens, it tastes terrible...

How many times have we woken up on a Sunday morning with that throbbing headache or that rumbling in our stomach and thought "let's go out for breakfast"?  You go to the local egg place, order whatever suits your fancy and order your cuppa joe.  The waitress takes your order, takes your menu and hops away to let the fry cook know your wishes.  She then flies over with a fistful of chipped white coffee mugs and a handful of plastic encased creamers tossed down with packets of white sugar and sweeteners stained with old strawberry jam.  You can tell from the pot the coffee will be weak, You can read the writing on the opposite of the carafe telling you not to place this pot on direct heat.  The brown coloured hot water smells like coffee - but you know - it's no Gold Coast blend from the mountains of Hawaii.  Depending on how you take your coffee you could be drinking warm cream or hot sugar syrup.  

Me, I am usually disappointed in the coffees at the majority of breakfast places.  Places where people go to cure their hangover, stuff their faces or just  for the love of breakfast (like me).

Oh no, is that peppy waitress coming my way again with more brown hot water, should I resist?  Oh what the hell, pour another, I need my caffeine, I'll go home and make a proper cup of coffee later.  Why, why don't we complain about this tragedy?  The restaurant makes the effort to offer 6 kinds of toast, 10 kinds of pre-packaged jam,  fresh fruit garnish on your plate.  They take the time to cook your eggs exactly how you order and make your bacon extra, extra, extra crispy without burning it.  So why is a flavourful, interesting cup of coffee so out of reach?  It's not just the cost, a cupper usually runs between $1.50 and $2 in those joints.  If I ever find a egg place that serves tasty, eye opening, interesting coffee (and possibly fresh made hollandaise sauce) then I will be a customer for life.

Let us now turn to our favourite breakfast foods.  Me - Eggs Benedict, aka Eggs Benny.  However, the Hollandaise sauce is a lost art.  I'm sure most chefs don't realize that you can make Hollandaise from scratch and adding water to a packet of yellow powder is not the only way to make Hollandaise.  Sure it takes a bit of practice, but it's well worth it.

According to Wikipedia: "Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 and, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover, ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of hollandaise." Oscar Tschirky, the famed maitre d'hotel, was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus but substituted ham and a toasted English muffin for the bacon and toast."

I like that a "hooker of hollandaise".  The meaning is a "slug or glug of hollandaise".  Hollandaise takes practice but well worth the rich tartiness effort over those creamy poached eggs, salty bacon and crispy English muffin - Please do not let your muffins go soggy and keep the hookers coming!

Yeah Hollandaise - Boo bad coffee!  And with my hangover all gone and a pot of great coffee made in my Italian espresso maker here's an easy Hollandaise Sauce recipe to make for next Saturday's breakfast or Monday night's dinner.

Hollandaise Sauce


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler part-way with water. Make sure that water does not touch the top pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water.
  2. Add the melted butter to egg yolk mixture 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly. If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat. Place a lid on pan to keep sauce warm.


  1. Oh sailing chef - we're going to BVIs in February and the suggested provisioning menu is turbidly bland. Suggestions as what's wonderful to cook there that's fresh?
    Sheila a la Malcontent

  2. Sheila: email me: