Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eggs Bennett

...Do y'all watch Swamp People? I've sort of gotten into it. And Moonshiners. See, it's fascinating because these people's way of life isn't so far removed from my own, but it completely is. I didn't grow up shooting alligators in the swamp, but I did grow up with them practically in my backyard. I have what I think is a healthy respect for them. They stay away from me, and I'll keep away from them. Oh and for goodness sakes, I won't go reaching for any golf balls in a pond like that fool in Florida.

As for moonshine, I've never distilled my own liquor nor have I had actual moonshine. I've seen it in the liquor stores here now, but if it's sold in stores is it really moonshine? So many questions unanswered. I...have no segues to take us to our dish today. Do you like Eggs Benedict? Me too. Except I think it should have country ham. And while we're using country ham, let's make a gravy with it. You still get the creaminess that you would with a hollandaise, but it's a totally different flavor. This is more like a sausage gravy. Except with ham. Let's get it!

First things first are the biscuits. You need: Flour, buttermilk, butter, shortening, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and pepper.

Dry ingredients are whisked together to combine them evenly. Confession: I didn't actually use a whisk. I used the pastry blender. Same effect!

The pieces of cold fat are cut into flour. You can use your hands or a pastry blender.

You want the butter and shortening to get broken up into small pieces, about the size of peas.

 Gently stir in the buttermilk until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Don't overmix!

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it into a disk about an inch thick. There's no need to knead this dough.

 Cut out your biscuits using a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Or a wine glass if your biscuit cutter is all broke up.

Top each peppery biscuit with a little pat of butter, about 1/4 teaspoon worth.

Bake the biscuits until just golden brown.

The rest of the dish is pretty easy. You'll need: milk, eggs, country ham, and flour. Oh and butter, which didn't make the picture.

You want to heat a cast iron skillet and fry the country ham. The package might say a minute per side, but that's a load of horse hooey. It's more like 2.5 or 3. You should start the water in a shallow saucepan for the eggs if you want them poached now as well. Bring it to a simmer.

The ham will have crispy bits and a little caramelization. It's the business.

Now I didn't anticipate the ham not giving off a lot of fat, so the butter was a last-minute addition. No problem, dude! See all those crispy bits on the bottom? We'll still get plenty of salty pork flavor in our gravy. And when has adding butter ever been a problem? That's what I thought.

The butter melts and you add flour to start the gravy.

Whisk and whisk and whisk to break up any and all lumps and cook the raw taste out of the flour.

Whisk in the milk and keep scraping to get the good stuff off the bottom.

To the eggs. When your water is at a simmer, toss in a tablespoon of vinegar. Break the egg into a shallow bowl or ramekin. Stir the water to create a vortex in the middle and slide the egg into the pan. Gently stir around the egg to help the whites come together. Let it cook until the whites are set, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels. You can repeat this process with up to 3 more eggs before you need to change the water.

When the gravy is at the thickness you like, give it a taste. Season it very lightly with salt and pepper. I didn't pepper my gravy until I'd spooned it over the biscuits for aesthetic purposes only. Oh and if your gravy gets too thick simply thin it out with a little milk. Easy peasy!

Assemble the whole shebang as such: Biscuits broken in half-country ham on one half of each biscuit-poached egg on top of ham-gravy all over everything. You can garnish with green onions if you want, too.

As with just about anything, the runny yolk makes it. This would be a lovely brunch dish for Mother's Day served with some fruit and asparagus. The country ham is salty and wonderful against the smooth, creamy gravy. The black pepper-studded biscuits provide a nice anchor for the dish without being too heavy. It's pretty dreamy. And of course, if you're wondering, I called it Eggs Bennett because Bennett is our family name.

Eggs Bennett (serves 6-8)

2 c all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbs unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3 tbs shortening, cold and cut into cubes
3/4 c buttermilk

Poached eggs:
8 eggs (or one for each biscuit)
2 tbs white vinegar

Ham & Gravy:
3-4 slices country ham
4 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs flour
2 c whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onions for garnish, optional

  • Preheat oven to 450ยบ. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and soda. Whisk to distribute evenly. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender until the fat is incorporated and the size of peas. Stir in the buttermilk gently until the dry ingredients are just moistened.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a disk about 1-inch thick. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch biscuit cutter. You may re-pat the dough once to get more biscuits. Arrange biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and top with 1/4 tsp of butter. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  • In a shallow saucepan, heat 2 inches of water to a simmer. Add a tablespoon of vinegar and stir to create a vortex in the pan. Crack the egg into a ramekin and gently slide it into the vortex. Stir around the egg to help the whites come together. Cook until the whites are set, about 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with 3 more eggs, then change the water and start the process over with the remaining eggs.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the country ham slices and fry until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add the butter to the hot pan and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk it to remove lumps. Cook about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the crispy bits up. Continue to whisk until gravy thickens, about 6-8 minutes. Taste, then season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Assemble the dish by cutting the biscuits in half. Top with half a slice of ham and a poached egg. Finish with gravy and garnish with green onions if desired. Serve immediately.

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