Eggs Benedict’s Time to Shine

Southern chefs are whipping up deliciously creative variations on the brunch favorite—including one you can make at home

Photo: courtesy of Ya Mas!

Ya Mas! Taverna's speck Benedict, the recipe for which is shared below.

No doubt you have big plans for April 16, what with it being National Eggs Benedict Day. (Seriously, you can check, it’s a real thing.) But even if the hollandaise-drenched holiday somehow slips by you, the span between Easter and college commencements—with Mother’s Day prominently perched right in the middle—might as well be dubbed High Brunch Season. And in my opinion, a brunch without eggs Benedict is like the Kentucky Derby without giant hats. (Come to think of it, I’d eat a hat, or a horse, drenched in hollandaise.)

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Apparently originated in New York City in 1894 (though by which eatery is in dispute), the dish in its most traditional form is composed of a split English muffin topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and hollandaise. But the wonderful thing about eggs Benedict is that as long as the basic structure is maintained, it’s open to near-endless creative interpretation. Indeed, I still reminisce about the poached eggs and chicken livers on a biscuit I once ordered as a hangover cure at The Old Coffee Pot in the French Quarter. 

That establishment is no more, but plenty of other Southern restaurants are taking eggs Benedict to delicious new heights this spring. Several are doing a seafoody riff, such as the Crab Cake Benny Stack at 300 East in Charlotte, which uses the traditional English muffin as a foundation for layers of crab cakes, fried eggs, tomato pepper jam, avocado, pickled onion, and citrus hollandaise. New Orleans’s venerable Tujague’s ditches a bread base altogether, instead topping two seared Louisiana crawfish cakes with poached eggs, tomato-spiked choron sauce, and étouffée. Or try a Mexican twist with the crab tostada Benedict at Tinta in Fort Lauderdale, showcasing lump crab, poached eggs, refried beans, avocado slices, and chipotle hollandaise atop a white corn tostada.

photo: courtesy of tinta
Tinta’s crab tostada Benedict.

Answering the question of whether Texans put barbecue on everything, Dallas’s Mansion Restaurant heaps smoked brisket on biscuits with Béarnaise sauce and piquillo peppers. You like it spicy? Then go for the Kashmiri hot chicken Benedict at Mister Mao in New Orleans, which assembles ancho-seasoned fried chicken, fried eggs, onion milk gravy, Hawaiian pineapple rolls, and lime cream dotted with Szechuan peppercorns.

photo: Paprika Studios
Mister Mao’s Kashmiri hot chicken Benedict.

Sometimes, though, a creative but less-busy interpretation is just what the brunch doctor ordered. Ya Mas! Taverna in Fort Lauderdale fills that prescription with its speck-on-brioche Benedict.“It’s inspired by giving a Mediterranean twist to a traditional brunch classic,” says executive sous chef Shane Spohn. “We spice it up with harissa, a North African red pepper paste that consists of garlic, chiles, vinegar, and various spices. Then we crumble crispy baked speck from Northern Italy to give the Benedict a bit of crunch.”

Spohn shared the recipe below, which is almost too pretty to eat. 



    • 2 tbsp. white vinegar

    • 4 slices smoked speck or prosciutto

    • 4 large eggs

    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard

    • 1 lemon

    • 6 oz. butter, cold

    • 2 oz. harissa paste

    • 1 large brioche bun

    • 1 dill sprig


  1. Bring two pots of water to a boil on high heat. Add vinegar to one pot. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325°F. Place speck (or prosciutto) on a baking tray and bake until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. To make the hollandaise, crack two eggs, separating the yolks from the whites with your hand. Place the yolks and mustard into a heat-proof bowl. Squeeze the lemon into the bowl, and whisk until combined. Place the bowl over the pot of boiling water without vinegar and slowly begin adding small chunks of the cold butter, whisking constantly. To ensure a smooth, creamy hollandaise, do not leave the bowl over the boiling water too long; continue whisking while moving the bowl on and off the heat until the butter is fully incorporated and a smooth consistency is achieved. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the harissa paste until combined. Set aside.

  3. Slice brioche bun in half and toast until brown and crispy. Once the pot with boiling water and vinegar is boiling, whisk a swirl in the water and crack remaining two eggs directly in. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until desired egg temperature. Use a slotted spoon to remove the poached eggs from the water and place directly onto toasted muffin. Spoon on harissa hollandaise. Crumble on crispy speck/prosciutto, and top with dill.