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Good Eats: Little Big Lunch: Eggs Benedict

From an overview of the origins of brunch, Alton explores a favorite brunch menu choice: Eggs Benedict. That encompasses several origins of the dish, a how to make your own English muffins (this is easier than you may think), how to build a proper Hollandaise sauce, and how to combine it all to produce a delicious bruch meal. Alton even offers a poaching technique that makes it easy to produce consistent quality poached eggs in any quantity, for those occasional large brunch gatherings. Brunch and eggs Benedict – Good Eats!

Episode Info  

Episode number: 14x4
Production Number: EA1403H
Airdate: Thursday June 17th, 2010

Director: Alton Brown
Writer: Alton Brown

Main Cast
Alton BrownAlton Brown
As Himself


Alton thumbs through a book entitled Forgotten Food Folklore. The history of food is fat with familiar names like Clarence Birdseye, Milton Hershey and Dr. Salisbury. But for every such giant there are perhaps thousands of unsung heroes. One is Guy Barringer, who wrote for the English magazine Hunter's Weekly late in the nineteenth century. Alton asks “Mr. Barringer” to describe the beginning of an average hunting day...

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Episode Notes
  • Dim Sum, the popular Chinese meal, is considered by some to be the original brunch.
  • April 16th is National Eggs Benedict Day.
  • Although Hollandaise is as French as Pepé Le Pew, the name is a nod to the Netherlands which exported a great deal of high quality butter to France.

Food Network calls this episode “Little Big Lunch: Eggs Benedict”. The refrigerator title reads simply “Little Big Lunch”.

Episode Quotes
Alton: The history of food is fat with names we all know: Clarence Birdseye, Milton Hershey, Dr. Salisbury. But for each of the famous, a thousand unsung heroes languish in relative obscurity.

Alton: So, then it's off to blast the peasants... ah, sorry, pheasants... pheasants...
Guy Barrington: Quite.

Guy Barrington: Instead of England's early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around non, beginning with tea or coffee. By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, “brunch” would make life brighter for Saturday night carousing.

Alton: The English muffin is actually kin to the girddle-baked crumpet, and was invented in 1880 by one baker named Samuel Thomas, in Chelsea. Not, not London, actually, but rather... New York City.

(After a yeast puppet belches in his face.)
Alton: You know, this persistent releasing of gas is only funny to small children and men with names like Beavis.

Alton: For that we'll need three egg yolks – those are already out – a half a pount of unsalted butter. Hey, I said it was good. I didn't say it was low fat.

Alton: We also, of course, need eight thin slices of Canadian bacon – that's a smoked back bacon or loin, which Canadians no more refer to as Canadian bacon in Canada than the English call English muffins “English muffins” in England! Yeah... that's right.

Episode Goofs
Alton asserts that a recipe entitled “Eggs à la Benedick” appeared in the 1894 edition of Charles Ranhofer's cookbook, The Epicurean. Later editions do contain the recipe. The 1894 edition may be viewed online (for example, here). The new edition of the book is still in print and available for purchase as of this writing.

Cultural References
Samuel Thomas first sold his English Muffins from a bakery in New York. After his death in 1919 his family incorporated that business, and it exists to this day: Thomas English Muffins can be found on many store shelves.

Chastising a “yeast” that has “belched” in his face (demonstrating that yeast produce carbon dioxide and help breads rise), Alton comments that only children and people named Beavis find that funny. Alton refers here to a character from animator Mike Judge's inaugural cartoon, Beavis and Butt-Head, which ran on MTV in the 1990s. Its two title characters were noteworthy for many examples of unrefined behavior. Beavis was the blond haired, and generally stupider, member of the pair, usually depicted wearing a Metallica or Death Rock tee shirt and shorts.

The episode name “Little Big Lunch” may be a take on The Little Bighorn. The Little Bighorn was the site of a famous battle between the United States Cavalry (7th Regiment), led by George Armstrong Custer, and various American Indians from the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples, led by Sitting Bull. The cavalry took heavy losses and Custer himself died, leading to the battle's other popular name: Custer's Land Stand.

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