Sunday, January 17, 2010

Portland Local sourcing Eggs Benedict

My lovely wife got me egg poaching cups for Christmas.   These things are wonderful.  I used to be an egg poaching failure ever time.  Swirling wouldn't work.  The inverted cup trick never worked.  Changing the water temperature never worked.  They always fell apart and made a big mess in the pot.  Until now.  These egg poaching cups make my world a better place.  I can poach an egg any day of the week without a problem.  As long as I don't overcook them, it's magical.

This is important because eggs benedict is my favorite breakfast food.  Although pancakes, especially blueberry pancakes, were my favorite for almost my entire life, now I can't get enough of eggs benedict.

There are 6 basic ingredients to Eggs Benedict:

  • Eggs
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Water
  • Lemon
  • English Muffins
  • Ham

For the most part, this should not be hard to local source, but there are some tricky ones in here.  Luckily, Eggs Benedict has no vegetables in it of any kind.  This makes local winter prep a little easier.

Trickier than finding ingredients is finding where to buy them in the middle of winter.  Most of the farmers' markets are closed for the season in Portland.  The only one left open that is sort of accessible to me is the Hillsdale market.  Although this is not exactly close to home and it is only open every other week (in Winter), it is all I got to work with right now.

Ham--going back to Sweet Briar Farms for this one.  This time I need canadian bacon style ham.  Luckily the have lots, right next to the regular style bacon.

Eggs--there are lots of egg vendors at the farmer's market these days.  For $4-6 per dozen, you can get some great fresh eggs.  I get Sweet Briar Farms eggs for the simple reason that I also buy my pork there.  No reason to make two stops.

Butter--again going back to the standard grocery story for Tillamook unsalted butter.  In Sauces, James Peterson calls for clarified butter (which can be made from normal butter).  But so far I been really happy with using just plain unsalted butter.

Water--Portland has really good tap water.

Lemon--Lemons don't grow anywhere close to here. Unfortunately there is no getting around this one.  They've got to be imported.  Meyer lemons from New Seasons will have to do.

English Muffins--this proved to me much harder than I thought.  I checked with the artisan bakers at the farmer's market.  I called the bigger local bakeries that I could find.  I even checked the bakery at New Seasons.  No one makes English muffins.  No one even had any ideas of a local shop that does.  This blew me away.  How can not a single local bakery make something so standard?  This will have to be a quest I pursue another time.  For now, I simply went with an organic mini French loaf from New Seasons (the last place I checked).  Sliced the correct thickness, this may be a really good alternative.  And much easier to find.

However, locally produced and locally grown are two different things.  While the loaf may be organic, I'm sure the oils and salts and yeast and flours all come from places far away, which make it not really a locally sourced loaf of bread.  Again, something for further investigation.

Overall, I was able to get only 4 out of 6 ingredients locally--66%.  Not a horrible score, but could be better.  If I can find a good local source bakery, then that can bring my score up to 83%.  But those darn lemons will never be local around here.

How did it turn out?  Well, with some practice it is doing pretty good.  Still not as good as the best eggs benedict in portland, but getting there.

Here's something different.  At James' John Cafe, they put a petite butter lettuce salad on the plate with a very light vinegarette.  The light, crispy lettuce and clean vinegar flavors cleanse the palette and offer a nice contrast to the full bodied hollandaise-bacon-egg combo of the Benedict. I may give that a try some time. :)