If there’s a straight-up perfect meal, it’s grilled cheese and tomato soup. Many people are unwavering in their love for this nostalgic duo; it is the ideal combo on a cold rainy day or when you are felled by a cold. The richness of the crispy buttery bread with the gooey melted cheese inside is balanced perfectly by the acid and sweetness in the soup. And there is no better mouthful than the triangular point of a sandwich half dunked in the soup just long enough to absorb a bit of the creamy goodness, but not long enough to get soggy.
This lunchtime pair is so beloved, every caterer worth their salt now offers an appetizer version for the wedding cocktail hour. But even if the offering is a creamy yellow heirloom bisque served in an espresso cup with a twee finger sandwich of melted gruyere on artisanal sourdough—you’re still talking about grilled cheese and tomato soup.
Eggs Benedict is a dish no less classically craveworthy. But there are issues with Benedicts structurally that can complicate matters. To start, while a toasted English muffin provides a sound base for the open-faced breakfast sandwich, over-toasting can make it hard to cut through, and under-toasting can make it overly chewy or gummy. The Canadian bacon on top provides nice smoky meaty counterbalance, but also can be a slippery base from which your egg can all too easily swerve. And hollandaise sauce—that buttery lemony emulsion that slicks the top—can sometimes lean a little too bland, not nearly enough contrast with the egg.
Enter the mashup breakfast of your dreams: Eggs Benedict with grilled cheese and tomato hollandaise. You start with a traditional grilled cheese sandwich, using extra-thin white or wheat bread so that the ratio of carb to protein to fat stays in perfect balance. Use the cheese of your choice—from sharp cheddar to basic American, nutty swiss, or creamy brie, you do you in the grilled cheese game.
But here’s where this setup starts to make more sense: Regardless of whether you desire standard Canadian bacon, or would rather get your bacon or sausage game in gear, the meat gets placed inside the grilled cheese sandwich, where the cheese keeps everything effectively glued together in a tight dairy hug. The toasted exterior of the sandwich provides excellent traction to keep your egg from skidding all over your plate, and adding tomato paste and the lightest dash of hot sauce to your basic hollandaise amps up the flavor and hearkens lovingly back to your tomato soup.
Grilled cheese Benedicts are unlikely to replace either your grilled cheese and tomato soup lunch or your traditional Benedict breakfast. But they will definitely up the ante a bit for your next brunch.
Grilled Cheese Benedicts with Tomato Hollandaise
Because of the sandwich base, these are a bit more substantial than a regular Benedict, so I usually figure one per person as part of a larger brunch or breakfast. But the thin bread makes a smaller sandwich, so a hungry person can eat two. You be the judge of how many you need for who you are serving.
- Extra-thin white or whole wheat bread
- Softened butter or mayonnaise
- 2 slices cheese of your choice per sandwich
- 1 slice Canadian bacon or ham, 1 cooked sausage patty, or 2 strips of cooked bacon per sandwich (If you are vegetarian, you can easily sub cooked spinach or asparagus here)
Spread the softened butter or mayonnaise on all four slices of bread. Place half the slices, buttered side down, in a nonstick skillet, top each with one slice of cheese and turn the heat on to medium. When the cheese begins to melt, place the meat of your choice on top of each slice, top with another slice of cheese and the second slice of bread, buttered side up. When the bread is golden brown on the bottom, gently flip the sandwiches over and press gently on the top. By the time the bottom bread is golden brown, the cheese should be melted.
This hollandaise skips the usual step of clarifying butter by using melted ghee instead. Ghee is usually available in the international section of your grocery store with other Indian ingredients. If you cannot source ghee, you can clarify butter yourself and then continue with the recipe. This sauce recipe makes about a cup, so it is plenty to garnish up to eight individual Benedicts.
- 1 cup melted ghee, warm but not boiling hot (you can sub clarified butter)
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- Kosher salt to taste
- A few dashes of hot sauce
Put the yolks, tomato paste, lemon zest, and hot sauce in a tall container for use with an immersion blender, or in the base of your blender. Pulse to combine. Start either immersion blender or regular blender on low and let it run for 30-40 seconds to begin to aerate the yolk mixture.
As slowly as you can, begin to drizzle the melted ghee into the mix with the blender running. You want to go as slowly as possible: You are going for a thick and creamy emulsion, and if you add the butter too fast it will break and get greasy or watery. Continue to drizzle the butter slowly into the mixture until it is fully incorporated. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste, and more hot sauce if you want it spicier.
Move your eggs in a slotted spoon, holding the spoon against a kitchen towel or folded paper towel to absorb any extra poaching liquid, and put one egg on each sandwich. Pour one tablespoon of the warm tomato hollandaise over each egg, and serve hot with extra hollandaise on the side if you like.