Eggs Benedict + Molecular Gastronomy: Don’t Be a Hater

posted in: Cooking, Savory | 45

*This is a post for consideration in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice recipe competition. If you like to get all crazy El Bulli-style, you should check out both the contest and the book HERE.

If necessity is the mother of invention, luxury must be the father of reinvention, no? There is the argument- why mess with a good thing? But I say, why not when there is the possibility to create a truly great thing. French fries and ketchup are good. Poutine is great. Your first time was good, your 50th time (complete with curled toes) was great. Passable Eggs Benedict are good. Even really, really good. But these Eggs Benedict are as stratospheric as that time you did it in the hot springs with the guy who was really into Kamasutra. Isn’t that the kind of greatness we should aspire to in the kitchen?

Striking culinary platinum is infinitely more satisfying to me than appeasing the status quo. This is the group who are keen on getting their food ten miles from where they park their Prius in front of their Craftsman. They insist on knowing that their chicken is named Estelle. It’s gone so far that they want to know Estelle’s mother’s maiden name (which is Stansberry), and fixate on whether she was fed a steady diet of organic, humanely-mined gold dust over the course of her bucolic nine months on earth.

I have dubbed the culinary status quo the anti-gastronomers.  I tire of their ill-informed diatribe against molecular gastronomy (which is a hated term much like “foodie,” but a better description is yet to be widely-accepted). They cannot discern the difference between a foam and a froth but they verbally vomit on both despite the fact that they lap up foam wholeheartedly every time they sip a latte, spoon in mousse, or swallow soufflé.

This is not to say I’m against locavorism; once you enter a certain echelon of manipulation of food, eating local is one of many important concerns. Some cooks want to do something more inventive with food than regurgitate Thomas Keller’s recipes that have been simplified for the aspiring home chef. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about food revolutions, sustainable sourcing, slow food, and all the other modern movements piggy-backing off each other to create one steamy paella pile of loathe for the future of gastronomy.

Anti-gastronomers, get off your grass-fed high horses for a minute and actually seek out the food you so spitefully condemn.  Your head might not want you to like it, but we humans are base creatures at heart. If it’s done right, your mouth will fall in love.

What I’m trying to say is that we are all in this together.  Just because you choose to roast a prime rib and I choose to sous vide it doesn’t mean one or the other of us has more cred. It’s time to quit polarizing. Let’s embrace change and usher it in carefully so it happens with precision rather than leaving it in the hands of soulless scientists who miss the point of food in the first place. Once upon a time there was a grip of people who believed the earth was flat, and we know how that turned out. I’d rather be a culinary Galileo than a lemming who falls off the edge of the continent because I believed so hard it wasn’t wrapped around a sphere.

This version of Eggs Benedict is one such dish that I would love to make for anyone who casts doubt. I knew I needed to nail every aspect of the original Benedict or the scoffers would come Escoffier-in’ (yes, that was a really bad pun). The trickiest element to get right was the English muffin- the anchor of any classic version of the dish. Wylie Dufresne does an admirable reinterpretation of Benedict at WD50 in which he coats cubed Hollandaise in English muffin breadcrumbs and then deep fries them.

It’s genius, but I’ve always liked my English muffin to take a more starring role. It occurred to me that a tuile makes a lovely vessel in which to host a plethora of edible trifles, so why not make an English muffin tuile? I took it one step further and formed my tuile into a cornet. I hereby proclaim that I will deep throat a beer bong full of Everclear if this cornet doesn’t taste just like an English muffin should in your wildest, crunchiest fantasies.

Many would say the make or break (sometimes literally) aspect of Eggs Bennie is the Hollandaise. My version is no exception. I knew I couldn’t eff it up or the anti-gastronomers might waterboard me with sizzling drips of clarified butter. It took me some time to get the proportions right, but I finally nailed a reverse-spherification food processor hollandaise that will please you more than the pool boy. When you heat the sphere of Hollandaise up it goes all gooey inside. Because it is thermo-resistant, the membrane on the exterior stays taut enough to keep the warm sauce contained just until it hits your mouth.

Sometimes I think I love eggs more than I love most humans. There are so many millions of ways to eat eggs, from raw off the half shell with a little lemon just like an oyster (yes, I do this, salmonella be damned), to cooked en sous vide at 63°C. If I had to subsist off one ingredient alone for the rest of my days, it would be eggs. At the risk of sounding wildly unhealthy, I will admit that my small family consisting of two adults and one toddler goes through at least 36 eggs per week.

When it comes to eggs, I am a slut. Chicken, duck, quail, goose- show me an egg and I’ll show you my chompers. Once I figured out my English muffin cornets and knew I’d be tossing spherified Hollandaise in them, I knew immediately that egg yolk drops would be the ideal accompaniment. They are egg yolks poached in clarified butter piped the size of kernels of corn. I could probably eat a popcorn tub of them. They would be great on popcorn, in fact. I wish I could say I came up with the concept, but I have to give credit to my muse, Oh Granty Boy (Achatz).

And finally, the most contentious part of the reconstruct- the meat. You’re going to say I wasn’t entirely true to a classic Eggs Bennie because I used wild boar bacon instead of ham, but here’s the thing- I had this rare and precious batch of boar bacon on hand and I just knew it would be perfect to spiral using transglutaminase for this dish. If you’re a purist (and you can somehow get on board with the rest of this iteration), the spiraling process would still apply equally to ham. If you need me to make it again to prove it, let me know.

It’s simple really- just four parts: the egg, English muffin, hollandaise, and meat. One of the reasons for the backlash against molecular gastronomy is that it is viewed as overcomplicated. This dish keeps it real but elevates every element to perfection so the result is a humbly-winning combination.

Eggs Benedict

Makes 20 Cornets

For the English Muffin Tuiles/Cornets:

(loosely inspired by Thomas Keller’s cornets from The French Laundry)

  • ¼ c + 2 tbsp pulverized English muffin crumbs, dried
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 tbsp butter, softened but cool
  • 2 egg whites, cold
  • An additional half cup or so English muffin crumbs for rolling and sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pulse the muffin crumbs, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade until well-mixed.
  2. Add the butter and pulse for 10 seconds. Add the egg whites and pulse until uniform but not over-blended, about 20 seconds. You may need to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula for even consistency.
  3. Make a 4” circular stencil using a sheet of acetate or even the lid from a large yogurt container. Place a silicon baking pad (silpat) inside a sheet pan.
  4. Spread a thin, even layer of batter across the tuile stencil using an offset spatula. Repeat until you have three per batch. (I like to do three per batch because if you do more, you will run into burning problems when you try to roll them around the cornet molds.)Sprinkle some extra muffin crumbs on the top sides of the three stenciled tuiles. Bake for four minutes.
  5. Working quickly, remove sheet pan to the oven door and flip tuiles with a small spatula. Work them around cornet molds by starting at one end of each circle and wrapping them around the molds until they form a cone.
  6. Bake each cornet for an additional 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and roll in additional muffin crumbs. Let cool on cornet molds for five minutes, then slip out of molds and let cool completely on a wire rack, repeat with remaining cornet batter.

For the spherified Hollandaise sauce:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp lemon
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, melted and hot
  • 6 g calcium lactate gluconate
  • 0.8 g xanthan

Alginate Bath

  • 1000 g purified water
  • 5 g sodium alginate
  1. Put the egg yolks, lemon, paprika, salt and sugar in a food processor and blend for ten seconds. Add the melted butter in a slow and steady stream until the mixture emulsifies, about 60 seconds. Add the calcium lactate gluconate and the xanthan gum and thoroughly combine. Strain into a small bowl and cover overnight.
  2. Combine the water and sodium alginate in a blender and blend until no clumps remain. Pour into a shallow dish so that the mixture fills approximately the bottom two inches of the dish. Cover and let sit overnight.
  3. Remove the hollandaise mixture and the alginate bath from the refrigerator. Fill a third shallow dish with purified water, roughly the same size as the alginate bath dish.
  4. The hollandaise mixture should be solid enough that you can work with it by scooping a teaspoon of it into your palms, then rolling it into a ball. Make several of these balls and drop into the alginate mixture, making sure they sink just enough that they are evenly coated with the alginate. Do not let them touch each other or they will stick together. Let set for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to the water bath. Repeat until you have 20 (or more if you want to ensure success) hollandaise spheres.

For the egg yolk drops:

Follow the technique outlined in this post:

For the wild boar spirals:

  • Unspecified amount of transglutaminase powder (*handle with care)
  • 16 pieces thick-cut wild boar bacon
  1. Wear rubber gloves and consider wearing a mask for this recipe as transglutaminase can be dangerous to touch and inhale until it’s cooked.
  2. Lay the bacon out in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of transglutaminase evenly over the bacon using a sifter or shaker.
  4. Working with four pieces of bacon at a time, start making a tight roll like you would if you were spooling ribbon. Ensure that it is as tight as possible, as the meat glue will not adhere otherwise. Once each slice of bacon is wrapped, continue with the next until all four pieces are wrapped very tightly. Repeat with remaining bacon for four spirals. At this point either vacuum seal or tightly wrap in clingfilm each spiral.
  5. Let rest overnight. Remove from plastic and slice each spiral into five wheels. Fry as you would normal bacon, however note the spirals will curl, so if you want them to fry flat, cover them with a heavy lid.

To assemble the Eggs Benedict:

  • Several sprigs of chive for garnish
  1. There are options for heating the hollandaise spheres. I heat mine by putting them in a controlled temperature water bath at 110°F. You could try this on the stovetop in a saucepan if you are very attentive with the thermometer, as if they go much above that temperature they risk bursting.
  2. Place a warm bacon spiral inside each cornet. Nestle in a hollandaise sphere. Drop a spoonful of egg drops around the sphere and garnish with a chive sprig. I serve my cornets on a contraption I rigged to hold them upright, but get creative. You could set them in a salt-filled container or make them to order and have your guests hold them.
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45 Responses

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  2. These are awesome ideas, and just the kinds of things I like to do with my multi-course, molecular meals. Check it out:
    This might be a good starter or morning-after touch!

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  4. Thanks so much for this entry and for putting so much thought and effort into your recipe. Very fun to read, too.

  5. “I’m not a hater, I just crush a lot” -Big Pun

    The more I read your post the bigger girl crush I have on you. There, I said it. I agree, why knock if you never tried it. Some people hate on others for making their own freaking bread. Ugh- bitch, please. Anyway, this looks amazing! I love love love those cones. Bet they are as delicious as they are sexy. You’re an inspiration for sure! Your family is one lucky bunch of folk. Have a lovely weekend!

  6. I finally got around to reading this post and all I can really say is a big, fat, hearty, cholestoral-filled, eggy benedicty YES.

    What it comes down to at the end of the day is a love of food, and whether it’s simple, slopped on a plate, not pretty in the slightest but totally delicious, or fancy and all molecular gastronomied up, it’s still a passion for flavour and taste. That’s something I can totally get behind, no matter how it’s prepared.

    I raise my hand and claim myself to be in the Galileo tribe of gastronomy! Hear ye, hear ye!

    Jax x

  7. It’s true, this is a totally inspiring post. I just bought a spherification starter kit (so far my caviar look like misshapen sperm, but practice makes perfect … I hope!) and I am very excited to learn everything I can about it. I don’t know why people can’t love and embrace all kinds of cooking – I want to learn all that I possibly can, from a perfect souffle to effortless mother sauces to well formed spheres. The more you know, the more you are able to make your ideas take shape. Anyway – this is fabulous and I hope my technique improves over time to the point where I could pull this off!

  8. Based on your prowess, I’m sure this tastes like the best effing Eggs Benedict we’ve ever had in our lives! Which means we won’t get to see you deep throat a beer bong of Everclear ;) As amaZing and entertaining as always! Congrats on the Top 9 – there are a lot of lovers out there, too.

  9. You are completely inspiring.
    And you saw the Portlandia episode, right?

    I’d love to eat this. Make some for me, please.

  10. THat is just too cool!!! You have ultimate patience. Nicely done! Congrats on a well deserved Top 9!!

  11. You’re so unique and your approch to food is so different. Very beautiful presentation! I enjoyed this post.

  12. Looks amazing. Congrats on the Top 9.

    We invite you to share this post and some of your favorite posts on Food Frenzy.
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  13. I would have loved to try this. I have access to all of the fun chemicals for molecular gastrnomy fun, but have yet to dabble!

  14. awesome linda! good luck!
    and yay for top 9!
    i want to try that english muffin cornet, and i do believe you when you say it tastes just like the real deal.

  15. U go girl. What a masterpiece! Congrats on top 9!

  16. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. I love the idea of eggs bennie handrolls. Who wouldn’t go ga ga for spherized hollandaise and boar bacon? I am an egg slut too, and yes, I think I’m one of those people who buys the eggs of chicken who have names.

  17. These looks gorgeous and you have explained the whole process so great. Congrats on top 9.

  18. I agree we should aspire to that sort of greatness but not only in the kitchen! :)

    Anyone that turns down food based on what you mentioned above is missing out on a large part of the culinary world. I’ve never tried to slurp an egg off the half shell like an oyster but I would. Why not? I would have a very limited experience with food if I only tried what I “like”. I love your sense of adventure with food!

    I love this total tear-down-and-reconstruct version of eggs benedict all the way down to the boar bacon. Very outside the box on this one and I love it.

  19. Your presentation is just simply stunning, one of the most creative dishes I have ever seen!

  20. Absolute perfection. Pretty to look at, and I’m sure just as delicious to eat. I mean, how can you go wrong with spirals of boar bacon? :)
    BTW, I’m with you on this whole anti-gastronome nonsense. Food, like everything else, needs balance… and I’m getting a little sick of the current farm-to-table-100-mile-free-range-organic-grass-fed-heirloom-vegetable-locavore preachiness. It’s great that we’re getting in touch with where our food comes from, and I’m all for fresh ingredient-focused foods, but there’s more to life than rustic simplicity…. we all need a little haute couture from time to time. So thanks for being the Manolos in a forest of Birkenstocks. :)

  21. Likey! When can you host a food party? I am dying to try some of your gastronomy greatness.

  22. Ha ha. I thought by the title I might actually be able to try out one of your recipes…but then I saw the picture. :) You are amazing but I am a little too intimidated to try making these myself.

  23. This is hilarious. Great writing and an excellent MG creation. I always enjoy reading your posts.

  24. RavieNomNoms

    Wow, look at that presentation!

  25. Great posting!!! Thanks for sharing. I live near New York City and one of my favorite restaurants makes this dish….check it out…its called WD-50. His signature dish are the eggs benys….
    your adaptation is awesome and your eggs look great…great posting and thanks for sharing… love molecular gas. btw…
    -Big Al

  26. This is fascinating. I have never had the opportunity to experiment with molecular gastronomy, but this makes me want to try! I love your writing style and that you stand your ground, keep it coming. =)

  27. Thanks for the molecular gastronomy tutorials. I recently went to a bar where the bartender (or mixologist) was preparing some sort of alcoholic s’more. He was making spherified marshmallow and stoli vanilla to top a homemade graham cracker and Godiva liquor gelee. I wonder if he was using the process above to make the spheres!

    Thanks again.

  28. Lovely eggs. Your posts are a great inspiration for a home cook looking to get into more M.G. (e.g. me) Thanks for your indirect encouragement. My next project is to build a water-bath.

    Half way there with building a Mash Tun.

  29. This is just so amazing looking! I love Eggs Benedict and I think turning it into something more interesting like this is fantastic. I also agree that one should always strive to achieve something new or different when it becomes the ‘usual’. As long as it has heart and soul in it it’s a work of art that should be appreciated whatever medium or technique :D

  30. Oh god, what a horrible way to go, inhalation of transglutaminase dust! Sounds like a fitting end for a gastronomic supervillain.

  31. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Linda M Nicholson, Loren Crannell and Linda M Nicholson, Linda M Nicholson. Linda M Nicholson said: Eggs Benedict + Molecular Gastronomy: Don't Be a Hater or you might fall off the edge of the earth […]

  32. Ah everything looks extraordinary! I so enjoy reading your posts and I love love love your creations!
    Oh, and I am not a hater. :)

  33. This is incredible. You took one of my all time favourite breakfasts, and turned it into something I don’t even recognize, but I want to try!

  34. I’m kind of on the fence about the whole molecular gastronomy thing, it seems like so many chefs these days focus more on novelty than flavor. That said, I’m all for using tools to make food taste better and it looks like you’ve accomplished that here! I just whipped up my first sodium alginate bath today and experiment #1 turned out more like blobs than spheres, but seeing this post has inspired me to persevere:-)

  35. I loooove these! I remember my parents drinking sloe gin fizzes all foamy and silver accompanied by the most perfect eggs benedict ever on the verandah of the Alta Mira Hotel in Sausalito on Easter mornings when I was a kid. I would love to try this. I’m going to chefs warehoue in SF in a few weeks and am seriously going to see if I can blend some old school clay pot Indian recipes with these techniques. Your spherification directions I saved and are on my desktop, taunting me to try.

  36. MMMM! Love Eggs Benedict, your’s looks yummy. Too much work for this guy, but just throw wild boar bacon on the floor and watch me fight with the dog over it. Side of egg yolk and muff to wash it down.

    Linda Reply:

    @Kent, yep, wild boar ANYTHING is good by me!

  37. Linda, I don’t think I’ve been this hungry for Eggs Bennie in YEARS! I don’t drive a Prius but I do live in a Craftsman and I turn my nose at molecular gastronomy only because I have been to chicken to try it myself. But you can bet your Louboutin’s that I will be making this recipe! This sounds amazing and I need to go wipe off the drool now. {bowing down to your greatness}

    Heather – Farmgirl Gourmet

    Linda Reply:

    @Heather – Farmgirl Gourmet, OK, but if i bet my louboutin’s you’d better do it:) and report back…

    Heather - Farmgirl Gourmet Reply:


    DEAL! Hopefully I don’t freak out the Hubs and kids! They are used to my down home cookin! :) But what the heck, a girl has to live!

  38. This looks truly fantastic! Great example of classic made modern. Excellent photos, btw -

  39. You are so funny woman! Ok, maybe you are on tne edge of sanity but you always make me laugh. Oh and for the record I do love eggs more than all humans except maybe my kids and come to think of it they were eggs at one time.

    Linda Reply:

    @Janis, they were eggs too- that explains why people like us like SOME humans:)

  40. 36 eggs a week? That explains your youthful appearance (well, that and the fact that you’re still young). Once again you’ve made us think about new ways to kick old classics up a notch . . . and the pool boy ;)

    Linda Reply:

    @Sarah @ OC2Seattle, I knew you’d like the pool boy:)

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