Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eggs on Horseback Revisited

Twenty-five years ago I read a terrific book by Robert Heinlein titled Friday. It was a fun and sexy science fiction adventure, up to Heinlein’s typical standards, the details of which are for another post. One of the things that I remember about it was when some of the principle characters are on the lam, and they stop by the coffee shop in the San Francisco Airport Hilton. The requisite old guy in the group orders breakfast for them all, and it is called something like “Eggs on Horseback.”

Sadly, I no longer have a copy of Friday to refer to, and I am not even certain of the name of the dish, but it sounded good, so I thought that I would try to wing it. To say that my memory of this brief passage in a book from a quarter century ago is vague would be significantly stretching the meaning of the word “vague.” Let us say rather that I found inspiration in this delightfully described breakfast in this fiction and leave it at that. Years after reading that passage I stopped by the Airport Hilton at San Francisco Airport to see if they had anything like on the menu. I read that stupid plastic covered menu over about six times to no avail. It wasn’t there.

The elements of this dish, as I remember them, are simple: Filet mignon, cut thick and butterflied, two poached eggs and, in the original, probably, Hollandaise sauce. Since I am working from memory, and since this is, admittedly, my reinvention, I am substituting Bearnaise for the Hollandaise because it marries with the rich beef better.

Eggs on Horseback Revisited
With thanks to the late Robert A. Heinlein


2 filets mignon, cut 2” thick and butterflied
4 eggs, poached, yolks runny
Bearnaise (recipe follows)


1) Grill, broil or pan-roast the steaks to taste, but don’t go more than medium rare. Filets are wasted if cooked more well-done than that. If you are cooking for someone who wants their meat gray, get them a nice sirloin or flatiron steak instead and send the filet to me.

2) Gently balance two of the eggs on each of the steaks.

3) Enrobe the egg topped steaks with a generous blanket of sauce Bearnaise.  Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Sauce Bearnaise


1/2 pound, unsalted butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
4 white peppercorns, crushed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant pinch cayenne, if desired
Additional tablespoon of finely chopped tarragon


Warm butter just to melting point.

Do a reduction of shallots, tarragon and peppercorns, vinegar and wine to about 1/4 cup. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into the top a double boiler. Whisk the yolks into the wine/vinegar reduction.  Place over barely simmering water. (The water in the lower portion of the double boiler should not make contact with the upper portion of the pot.) Whisking constantly, watch until it starts to thicken – this is a pretty subtle change. Do not stop whisking and watch very carefully. 

Turn off the heat and remove the top portion from the double boiler.

Begin drizzling the butter in while whisking. (It really helps to have a third arm or an assistant here.) Keep the hot water handy, and work on and off the heat. If the sauce looks as if it is about to break, take it off the heat and whisk aggressively to cool. A teaspoon of cold water may be added to facilitate cooling. When all the butter is in, season with salt, a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon and a bit of cayenne pepper.

This makes for an insanely rich breakfast. You should probably wash it down with Mimosas made with brilliantly fresh orange juice.


My memory is worse than even I suspected. I gave Friday a re-read the other night, and when I came to the breakfast in question, it was much divergent from my memory. Suffice to say, the Hilton was not in San Francisco and the Eggs on Horseback were nothing more than a pair of sunny-side up eggs on a steak. I still like my version better.


Jim said...

"If you are cooking for someone who wants their meat gray, get them a nice sirloin or flatiron steak instead and send the filet to me."

Love it!!

Rick Blackwell said...

I read Friday too, in fact it's one of my fav Heinleins. I always just though of "eggs on horseback" as eggs served on a steak but I'm going to try your version.

Chris said...

Yours is the second highest result for the Google search for "eggs on horseback". I was looking it up because I ran across it while rereading "Stranger in a Strange Land" for the third time. Can't beat Heinlein. Cheers!

Alex said...

Wow, Chris, seems an almost-implausible coincidence... my wife Anna and I just gave each other a copy of the Virgnia's edition of Heinlei's work, all 45 volumes, for our respective birthdays (had to be BOTH birthdays with what it costs!-), and I'm rereading everything -- right now ending `Stranger`, towards the ending, came up on `eggs on horseback`, searched the web... and got here.