Eggs benedict is the quintessential brunch dish, and one of my favorites. But with the heat of summer in the South, I prefer to use smoked salmon to lighten it up. I cure my salmon with dill before it goes into the smoker, perfuming the fish to marry perfectly with the dill in the pesto. (NOTE: You can also purchase great quality smoked salmon at most specialty food stores).While pesto classically calls for pine nuts, I love the creamy texture that the peanuts lend to this sauce. And with my homemade hot sauce infused into the hollandaise, it adds the kick I need to wake up in the morning. Serve this at Sunday brunch with a light garden salad, and impress your friends with this elegant taste of Georgia.

Ingredients

Eggs

  • 16 thick slices of smoked salmon
  • 4 English muffins, halved and toasted
  • 1 bunch chives, sliced thin
  • 8 organic brown farm eggs, cracked w/ yolks intact into individual ramekins
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt

Dill Pesto

  • 10 oz dill
  • 10 oz arugula
  • 1/2 Cup peanuts
  • 1/4 Cup finely-grated parmesan
  • 1/4 Cup good Georgia olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup ice water

Jim’s Red Hot Hollandaise

  • 6 Teaspoon cayenne-based hot sauce
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 Teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 Cup clarified butter, melted but not hot
  • salt to taste

Preparation

Pesto Step 1:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Submerge the dill and arugula, and remove once lightly wilted. Shock in ice water then, once cold, squeeze out all water.

Pesto Step 2:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a food-processor, pureeing until the sauce comes together but still retains texture. Chill over ice until ready to serve, and keep plastic wrap pressed to the surface to prevent oxidation.

Hollandaise Step 1:

Prepare a small pot of water and bring to a simmer. Put egg yolks and hot sauce in a metal bowl and, holding the bowl over the simmering water, whisk constantly until pale yellow and thickened enough to form ridges. Make sure the water never touches the bottom of the bowl, as it will scramble the eggs instead of slowly cooking them with indirect steam.

Hollandaise Step 2:

Off the heat, slowly whisk the clarified butter into the thickened yolks in a steady stream until rich and emulsified. Finish with the lemon juice to stop the cooking process. Season to taste with salt and, if desired, more hot sauce.

Poaching Eggs Step 1

With the same pot used to prepare the yolks, add the vinegar and salt. Slowly form a vortex in the center of the pot with a spoon, then slip the eggs into the water. Allow the whites to fully set around the yolk, 2 min. Once yolks are cooked enough to handle but are still runny, lift gently out of the water with a slotted spoon.

Putting Together the Plate

Swirl the pesto on each half of toasted English muffin, then arrange two slices of salmon on top. Place a poached egg on each nest of salmon, then generously coat with the hollandaise. Sprinkle with the chives, and enjoy!