Dungeness Crab Benedict from Nick’s Cove
Ever since Nick Kojich started selling shrimp and crab cocktails to passing tourists in the 1930s, Nick’s Cove has remained an essential thread in the fabric of California’s coastal Marin County. Rising above the banks of Tomales Bay, the seaside resort and restaurant have long been a destination for coastal-inspired dishes. These days, Executive Chef Kua Speer offers peak-season California cuisine sourced from the area’s abundant farms and fisheries.
One of the most ordered dishes on the Nick’s Cove menu is a distinctly regional and decidedly modern take on a 19th-Century classic: Eggs Benedict. The original dish, a layering of Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce, has an origin that is somewhat disputed. Its prominence on brunch menus to this day, however, is not. Over half a dozen regional variations have sprung up over the years, each celebrating the bounty and traditions of its home. On the West Coast, that means substituting sweet and delicate Dungeness crab for Canadian bacon. And in California, it also means adding slices of creamy avocado. Dungeness crab is especially plentiful in Tomales Bay and nearby Bodega Bay, so it makes sense that Nick’s Cove would celebrate it.
Excerpted from Table with a View, a visually stunning collection of stories, recipes, and photographs highlighting Nick’s Cove’s history and cuisine, this recipe for Dungeness Crab Benedict features perfectly poached eggs and a classic homemade hollandaise sauce made with champagne vinegar. Combined, the egg yolks and hollandaise create a decadent sauce that flows seductively, drenching the delicate butter-tossed crab, nutty avocado, and lightly toasted English muffins below. A meticulously composed symphony of flavor, textures, and temperatures, this tour de force of open-faced sandwiches is definitely worth the effort for an extraordinary brunch.
Dungeness Crab Benedict
Courtesy of Nick’s Cove & Cottages
Makes 4 servings
For the hollandaise:
- 2⁄3 cup dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Dash of hot sauce
For the poached eggs:
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 8 large eggs
For the Benedicts:
- 2 avocados
- 4 English muffins, split
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 lb fresh-cooked Dungeness crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Make the Hollandaise:
To make the hollandaise, in a small saucepan, combine the wine, bay leaf, peppercorns, and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl and set aside.
Return the saucepan to the stovetop, add the butter, and melt over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the milk solids to settle to the bottom of the pan. Carefully pour the clear yellow liquid—this is the clarified butter—into a measuring cup, leaving behind only the milk solids in the pan; discard the milk solids.
Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Rest a heatproof medium bowl on top of the saucepan over (not touching) the water. Add the egg yolks, wine reduction, and salt to the bowl and whisk until blended, then continue to whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually add the clarified butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, while whisking constantly. The sauce should be smooth and thick; if it is too thick, whisk in 1 tablespoon of warm water. Whisk in the hot sauce. Return the bowl to over the saucepan off the heat, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
Poach the Eggs:
To poach the eggs, line a large, flat plate with a few paper towels and place the plate near the stovetop. Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a large, wide pot or a large, deep sauté pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the vinegar. Working in batches of four eggs, crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Holding a bowl so the lip just touches the water, gently tip the bowl to slide the egg into the water. Quickly repeat with three more eggs. Cook, using a slotted spoon to keep them separated if necessary until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny (medium), about 31/2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Prep the Remaining Ingredients and Assemble the Benedicts:
While the eggs are cooking, preheat the broiler. Cut each avocado in half lengthwise, discard the pit, and then, using a metal spoon, carefully scoop out each half from the skin. Place the avocado halves, cut side down, on a cutting board and thinly slice lengthwise, keeping the shape of each half intact.
When the broiler is ready, arrange the English muffins, cut side up, on a sheet pan, slide under the broiler, and toast until light brown, about 3 minutes.
To assemble the eggs Benedict, place two toasted muffin halves, cut side up, on each of four individual plates. Top each muffin half with one-fourth of an avocado, fanning the slices neatly.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the crab and heat, stirring occasionally, just until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Top each muffin half with about 3 tablespoons of the warm crab, spooning the crab on top of the avocado. Next, place a poached egg on top of each mound of crab and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the warm hollandaise over each egg. Dust each serving with about 1/2 teaspoon of the paprika. Serve at once.