This breakfast involved a satisfying and delicious trifecta of cooking projects, bringing together the varied activities of baking, charcuterie, and sauce-making and resulting in a plateful of surpassing tastiness. Plus there was that deeply pleasurable feeling of having created all the elements of the meal from start to finish. As a bonus, it ties together April’s Charcutepalooza hot smoking challenge with Michael Ruhlman’s From-Scratch challenge, and who doesn’t like the whole two-birds-with-one-stone thing?
I used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for English muffins, and I’m very pleased with it. I don’t have any English Muffin baking rings, so mine were free-form. I like the free-form shapes, but I’d like a thicker muffin than I achieved. I’ll be trying two things to get thicker muffins: making a slightly less liquid batter/dough, and if that doesn’t do the trick, then I’ll fashion some rings out of old tin cans.
[Added 4.19.11 “So, when I made my first batch of English muffins, I separated the batter/dough into three portions, roughly equal. With the first two batches, I added approximately a third of the water/baking powder mix, and proceeded as directed in the recipe. In both cases, the muffins were tasty, holey, but thinner than I prefer. For the last batch, made this morning, I had taken the last third of batter and added two heaping tablespoons of whole wheat flour, wondering if a slightly thicker dough would help. Also, I decided to not add the baking powder. This batch of muffins turned out perfectly, and taste wonderful, and they’re wicked holey.
So next time I’ll add around 6 tablespoons of whole wheat flour to the original recipe. Also, it’s nice to know, for people baking for one, that the dough holds up nicely in the ‘fridge for a week or so.]
For the Canadian bacon I used the recipe in Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, and it’s a good recipe. One thing to consider, should you try making your own: for the weight of meat given in the recipe (4 lbs), the recommended 48-hour brining period is probably perfect. If your piece of meat weighs less than four pounds, I would suggest a shorter time –maybe 24 to 30 hours. The one thin/skinny end of my first finished Canadian Bacon (3 lbs) was a tad overly salty, though the middle section was almost perfect. It also depends on the shape of your piece of loin: some are quite cylindrical and some are flatter. It makes sense to me that salt will penetrate a flatter piece faster than a rounder piece.
I can’t emphasize enough what a difference a well-developed pellicle makes to the finished Canadian Bacon. I’ve made two pieces in the last month; during the first one I was distracted and put it straight into the smoker after rinsing it and patting it dry, while the second one got close to thirty hours of drying, uncovered, in the ‘fridge. Smoke adhered and formed a very attractive layer on the well-pellicled piece. The first one was nice, but the second one was great.
I have made Hollandaise sauce many times over the years, and I’ve tasted lots of different versions here and there, and I use a recipe almost identical to the one that Michael Ruhlman favors, although I add a few white peppercorns because I like the funky floral note that it adds.
I had two duck eggs left from my visit to Claddagh farm, and it was an obvious choice to relish one of these beauties as part of this meal, and I made the most attractive poached egg ever thanks to Ruhlman’s excellent tip to strain the excess loose white through a perforated spoon. I actually used my Chinese spider because I don’t have a perforated spoon, and those excess whites joined the rest of of my egg whites (amaretti in my near future).
Et voila! An hearty, luxurious breakfast which tasted fantastic and kept me feeling warm and well-fed through a long day of hard work. Long live Canada, England, and either France or Holland (depending on your historical resources)!