Coffee and Eggs -- A Natures Pride Contest
Natures Pride is hosting a contest offering airfare and accommodations to the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco this year. To enter, we needed to create a recipe using Nature's Pride bread.
Christey and I went to the Blogger Festival last year, and we were really impressed by the winners of last year's contest. So, we batted some ideas around and decided to enter a recipe for mini Eggs Benedict with a coffee sauce. They're a fun brunch appetizer -- coffee and eggs and toast, all in one bite!
Foodbuzz and Natures Pride offered a coupon for a free loaf of Natures Pride bread. We ended up choosing the Natures Pride 100% whole wheat bread as a good substitute for the traditional english muffin in Eggs Benedict. It toasted nicely, with just enough texture to hold the flavors together.
Eggs Benedict is traditionally topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce. We wanted to play with these ingredients a bit and make them festival-friendly, so we decided to go with bite-sized pieces of Natures Pride bread, topped with a sweet coffee sauce, prosciutto di Parma, poached quail eggs, and Hollandaise sauce.
Quail eggs are funny things. Little birds with little eggs, packed with nutrition. Once we decided on the recipe, I actually had a hard time finding quail eggs in our Florida town. I looked in a lot of produce and grocery stores, only to be met with shaking heads. "Sure we sell them, but we haven't had any in a week or two." We were actually in Orlando this weekend to celebrate the birthdays of two of our kids, and I finally found some in a Whole Foods...only to see they were stamped from a town 10 minutes from our home.
I used the top of a wide spice jar to punch out chunks of Natures Pride bread. English muffins are usually toasted, but I like to put the bread on foil in a 450 degree oven to warm and brown the bread a little more evenly than a toaster.
While the bread was toasting, I made espresso.
Christey was born and raised in Florida. Florida is my adopted State -- I've lived here most of my life, but I can't claim to be born here. One of my favorite adopted drinks is Cuban coffee. I don't know how you can pack an equal amount of sugar into a demi-glace of espresso, but the Miami expatriates pull it off. I took Cuban coffee as an inspiration for a sauce by mixing espresso with simple syrup (a quick recipe -- mix equal parts sugar and water, boil, then chill. Simple syrup keeps in the fridge in an airtight container until the end of time.)
Bread done, coffee sauce done, next is the Hollandaise and poaching the quail eggs.
I separated out three egg yolks from a local cage-free, organic producer. I added a couple tablespoons of water, and mixed them together.
Meanwhile, I added some champagne vinegar to water that was barely simmering -- maybe 180 degrees. The vinegar is said to help solidify the whites while poaching, but I also like the bit of acid taste that the water gives the egg. I cut the eggs out of their shells and dropped them into a small dish, then eased them into the water to poach.
The tendrils of white can be cut away, as long as the center whites hug the yolk. In 180 degree water, the eggs poach for 3-4 minutes, and are removed.
Hollandaise is best made in a pan over steaming water. Well, we just poached eggs in steaming water, so we have a great steam producer already chugging away!
I dropped the yolks into a small saucepan and started whisking to incorporate some air.
There's a magic point in Hollandaise sauces and their derivatives. The yolks and water start out liquid and vibrantly yellow. Air is whipped in, things get frothy, but it's still liquid. Things heat up, not enough to cook the yolks solid, but suddenly the yellow, liquid yolks get pale and thick like a mayonnaise. Finding that point is almost exactly like learning to drive a stick shift. Once you find that point in the clutch and learn it in your bones, it's burned into your brain.
At this point, I add about 3/4 stick of butter, cut into 1" chunks.
The pan is on and off the steam to keep it just warm enough to melt the butter. Once that's done, the sauce is tested for salt, then the juice of half a lemon is squirted in.
The Hollandaise is the final cooking, and the touchiest. Under body-temperature and it'll seize up. Too warm, and it'll break and get runny. So, it's time to assemble and serve!
Pour some coffee sauce on the bread, and let it soak in
Tear up some prosciutto di Parma and pile it on, all loose and wrinkled like making a shaved-turkey sandwich.
The quail egg goes over the top, then the Hollandaise, then some chopped chives for color and a hint of herb.
They're fun and crunchy and pack a lot of flavor into one or two bites! The toasted Natures Pride bread was a great foundation -- the crispy and fluffy texture soaked in the flavors and added its own wheat flavor to a brunch classic!