dungeness crab eggs benedict

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I don’t know what it is about January, but it’s been so fantastic that I don’t really want it to end. There have been some really good times – nights out with the girls, brunch and a lazy Sunday with the boys, a secret concert with the one and only Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, which was mind blowing and totally the icing on the cake for the month.

There were also a couple of outstanding meals. I know we’re well into January, and I should be detoxing and eating sensibly like everyone else right now. But I’ve gotta be honest with you. I’ve been kind of bad. And I’m actually okay with that. Since it’s Dungeness crab season in these parts, I see that as a sort of get out of jail free card. I’ve had crab a least four times this month alone and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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It started with a crab dinner with the homies at the beginning of the month. We ate crab sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and shallots, accompanied by a beet, blood orange, and fennel salad, potatoes with preserved lemon, and crusty garlic bread. It was an incredible meal. We all had to lie down afterwards.

A few days later, my mama steamed eight crabs for Sunday dinner. My mom’s crab is like comfort food for me. There’s nothing complicated about it, but her crab dipping sauce is insanely delicious – garlic oil, ginger, and red wine vinegar. It’s my absolute favorite and no matter what I do, mine never turns out the way hers does.

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Luckily for those of us in the Bay, this is the time of year when you see Dungeness crab on restaurant menus everywhere. Dungeness crab beignets at Brenda’s (amazing, by the way). Dungeness crab rolls (better than a lobster roll, in my opinion). Dungeness crab eggs benedict, which I passed on during brunch one afternoon and much regretted afterwards. I knew what I had to do.

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I hadn’t made hollandaise sauce in years, but I knew I could rely on Julia Child for the perfect recipe. Her hollandaise sauce is divine – simultaneously rich and light, with just the right amount of lemon. I would happily eat this sauce on cardboard. Instead, it was the crowing glory of this Dungeness crab eggs benedict. There’s just something about the runny yolk of a poached egg that makes everything better. Combined with the sweet crab, sauteed spinach, toasty English muffin, and luxurious hollandaise you have yourself a breakfast fit for a king. A little frisee salad goes nicely alongside.

Resume your detox tomorrow.

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dungeness crab eggs benedict 

serves 2

for the hollandaise sauce:

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

makes about 1-1/2 cups sauce

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided

3 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus extra to taste 

kosher salt

ground white pepper

Cut 6 ounces of butter into pieces and melt in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside.

In a medium-weight saucepan, beat the egg yolks for about 1 minute, or until they become thick and sticky.

Add the water, lemon juice, and a large pinch of salt, and beat for half a minute more.

Add 1 tablespoon of cold butter, but do not beat it in. Place the saucepan over very low heat and stir the egg yolks with a whisk until they slowly thicken into a smooth cream. This will take 1 to 2 minutes. If they seem to be thickening too quickly, immediately plunge the bottom of the pan in cold water, beating the yolks to cool them. Then continue beating over heat. The egg yolks have thickened enough when you can begin to see the bottom of the pan between strokes, and the mixture forms a light cream on the wires of the whisk.

Immediately remove from heat and beat in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter, which will cool the egg yolks and stop their cooking.

While beating the egg yolks with a whisk, slowly add the melted butter, a few drops at a time, until the sauce begins to thicken into a very heavy cream. Then add the butter a little more rapidly and continue beating. Omit the milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan.

Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve warm.

To keep the sauce warm before serving, place in a pan of lukewarm water.

for the eggs benedict: 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach 

kosher salt 

2 english muffins, split in half 

4 large eggs 

a few drops of white vinegar 

8 ounces Dungeness crab meat (about 1 whole crab), at room temperature 

hollandaise sauce 

chives (for garnish) 

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and season with a pinch of salt. Toss until wilted. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange the English muffins on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 5 minutes.

Fill a wide, shallow saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add a few drops of vinegar to the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Crack one egg into a bowl. When the water is simmering, hold the bowl closely over the water and let it fall in. Immediately and gently push the white over the yolk with a spoon. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.

After 3 minutes, remove the first egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done.

Place 2 muffin halves on each plate. Divide the spinach among the muffins, followed by the crab. Place one egg on each muffin. Top each egg with a generous amount of hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve immediately.

baked eggs with cream, spinach, and ham

Sometimes, when I’ve got a case of the mean reds, I like to watch my favorite YouTube videos to cheer me up. Like this (magic). And this (recognize that voice?). And this (because Lee and I cannot get enough). And this (ew!). There. I feel better already.

And sometimes, when I need a little pick me up, I like to make myself something really, really delish and satisfying. Sometimes a good breakfast fixes everything. Eggs baked with cream, ham, and spinach will usually do the trick.

These eggs come directly from Adrian’s kitchen via Gourmet. Adrian’s is hands down my favorite place for brunch; the man is a natural born host. And my idol. And one of my besties. I refer to these as the brunch eggs because they regularly make their appearance at Adrian’s brunches. They really are the perfect brunch item, especially brunch for a crowd. Be sure to make extras; people will happily indulge in seconds.

baked eggs with cream, spinach, and ham 

from Gourmet

makes 8 servings

1/4 cup thinly sliced country ham, finely chopped

Scant 3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, or finely chopped leek 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

10 ounces spinach, coarse stems discarded

8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Bring ham and cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, then remove from heat. Let steep, uncovered, about 10 minutes.

Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add spinach, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, turning with tongs, until spinach is wilted.

Drain spinach in a colander, pressing to remove excess liquid, then coarsely chop. Divide spinach, then ham, among ramekins, spooning 1 tablespoon cream into each serving. Crack eggs into ramekins and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 teaspoon cream over each egg. Cut remaining tablespoon butter into 8 small pieces and dot each egg with butter.

Put ramekins in a shallow baking pan and bake, rotating pan halfway through baking, until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 15 to 20 minutes, removing from oven as cooked. Serve immediately with toast or grilled bread.

spinach chop

Now that I’m back from vacation and back to reality, I am putting myself back on a healthy eating regimen. It must be done – I ate those malasadas with reckless abandon while I was in Hawaii. I’m ready to return to my breakfast smoothies and greens.

I try to make sure to eat at least one serving of leafy greens a day. Lately I’ve been really into raw kale salads. And spinach. I’ve been buying Bloomsdale spinach from the farmers’ market every week and I can’t get enough of it. It’s a little more substantial than regular spinach, and has a bit of a nutty flavor that I really like.

This dish has been in heavy rotation in my kitchen for a couple of months now; I find myself making it at least once a week. This is what Heidi calls spinach chop. It’s wilted spinach, seasoned with garlic and harissa, and topped with hard boiled eggs and crunchy toasted almonds. It’s a great way to have your veggies and is packed with protein. It has become my favorite thing to munch on, especially when I’m eating low-carb. I also really like it for an on-the-go breakfast or lunch. This is what I ate during the flight to Oahu. It was a million times more satisfying than anything I could have ordered on the plane. Pat on the back for planning ahead.

spinach chop

from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

serves 4

1 pound spinach, tough stems removed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon harissa

4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

grated zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Add 1/2-inch water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and stir constantly until the spinach collapses entirely, about a minute. Drain spinach and run cold water over it until it’s cooled. Spin the spinach in a salad spinner to get rid of as much water as possible. Or press it in a clean kitchen towel. Finely chop the spinach.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute; do not let it brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the harissa and spinach. Add eggs, almonds, salt, and lemon zest and stir again gently until well-combined. Serve warm or at room temperature.