“It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.” ~ Elon Musk
Those are truly great meals that you eat slow, share stories, and possibly go back for seconds, or thirds depending on how long you decide to wait before you make the effort to actually put on pants.
Breakfasts like those long Saturday morning ones seem like the perfect opportunity to share a wild game meal; however, I find that breakfast is the area I struggle the most with when using wild game. If I do add deer or elk to the table, I tend to follow the same pattern each time: deer breakfast sausage. I might get inventive and make a burrito from the sausage or some type of scramble, and don’t get me wrong, those are fantastic meals and I gobble up every satisfying bite, but sometimes I want to share something that is a little different, a little unexpected.
This past weekend, I awoke for my late Saturday morning breakfast, still in my pajamas, and decided it was time to try out a new wild game breakfast item. I thought about how to best add wild game to the meal without getting too strange, and decided on taking one of my favorite classics and putting a wild game spin to it: the deer eggs benedict.
First popularized in New York, eggs benedict is a savory breakfast dish composed of a toasted English muffin topped with Canadian ham or bacon, a poached egg, and creamy Hollandaise sauce. Many variations of the dish exist, including substituting the Hollandaise sauce for a Béarnaise sauce, and switching the ham for salmon, steak or chorizo, adding spinach, tomatoes, or avocado. The meal base eggs benedict creates is a wonderful starting part for experimenting, especially when it comes to adding in some wild game.
Eggs benedict is the perfect lazy Saturday meal. It is not a particularly difficult meal to pull together, but it does require a bit of time. And honestly, it also makes quite the kitchen mess with the necessity for so many pots, pans, and utensils. But that is what makes it the perfect Saturday breakfast, as there will be plenty of time to clean-up after this meal is shared, bellies are full, and maybe an early afternoon nap happens.
To start, pre-heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Season your deer steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Compared to beef, deer is a very lean meat, and when steaks are cooked to medium or well-done the texture tends to become very rubbery and chewy, for this reason, I recommend eating deer rare or medium-rare. For this benedict breakfast, I used deer tenderloin steaks that were about an inch and half thick., so I cooked each side for about four minutes and then tented the steaks under aluminum foil. When you are ready to slice the meat, work across the grain and make about quarter to half inch slices.
While the steaks are resting, prepare the béarnaise sauce. Traditionally, eggs benedict is served drizzled in Hollandaise sauce. I switched the Hollandaise for Béarnaise in the this recipe. Hollandaise and Béarnaise are both quite similar, as both are lusciously rich and creamy sauces with a cheerful yellow color. The preparation base is the same for both sauces: eggs yolks emulsified in warm, melted butter and a hit of acid. Where the sauces differ is the type of acid used and the addition of flavors. Hollandaise gets it acid from lemon juice, and a slight heat is typically enhanced in the sauce with the addition of white pepper or cayenne. Béarnaise sauce gets is acid from white wine vinegar, and it’s flavor profile is further developed with the addition of fresh herbs and shallots. I love the combination of the lightly licorice flavored tarragon herb with deer, so I decided to make a tarragon béarnaise for this eggs benedict.
To create the Béarnaise sauce, melt two sticks of unsalted butter, or 1 cup. Let the butter cool just slightly. You want it to be warm enough to emulsify the egg yolks, but you don’t want it so hot that it actually cooks the egg yolks, which will result in a lumpy sauce. Add egg yolks and the white wine vinegar to a blender and turn the blender on a medium speed. Once the yolks are broken up and mixed a bit, slowly start drizzling in the warm butter. As the butter and eggs start working together, the sauce should thicken. Once all the butter is added, drop in the shallots, minced tarragon, and season with salt and pepper. Let everything blend for a few more seconds. I leave the sauce in the blender after I have prepared it, this way it will stay warm.
After the steaks are cooked and the Béarnaise sauce is ready, it is time to poach the eggs. There are several egg poaching techniques out there. Some people add vinegar to the water, other people poach in a shallow pan of water, and some even use a giant pot of boiling water. The technique I am sharing is the easiest for me. In a large pot, bring about five to six cups of water to a gentle boil. Have your eggs broken into separate bowls or ramekins in preparation for addition to the boiling pot. Using a large wooden spoon, create a whirlpool in the pot. Drop the eggs one at time into the swirling water, and watch as the eggs fall apart and then, almost magically, start to pull together into perfectly poached eggs. Allow the eggs to cook in the water for two and half minutes before removing with a slotted spoon.
Okay, after all that mess making, it is time to assemble the benedicts! Toast a slice of sourdough bread and brush on a little butter. To the buttered bread, add a thick, juicy slice of beefsteak tomato. Top that with two or three thin slices of the deer steak. Carefully balance the poached egg on top of the stack, and finally drizzle on a healthy pour of the Béarnaise sauce.
I love a beautifully cooked deer steak served with a side of potatoes or asparagus, but this deer eggs benedict really opened my eyes to all the possibilities of working with wild game. Breakfast can be more than steak and eggs or breakfast burritos. This meal is creamy and savory, with a hint of tartness, and even a little sweet from the tomato. It makes for a great lazy Saturday breakfast that is sure to impress all your diners. And it is pretty great for the chef as well!