Friday, October 14, 2016

Meet the Benny

Do you know what a benny is? I mean, the kind you eat? I didn’t until a few weeks ago, when I met my first one and fell in love.

In doing in-depth research for this post (that is, I googled it), I found that “benny” can mean (1) a tablet of benzedrine, (2) a rude, flashy tourist at the Jersey Shore, (3) a hundred-dollar bill (Benjamin Franklin, see), or (4) a sudden period of uncontrolled anger. No food version of benny made the first page.

But I had met one, face to face. And then in New Orleans for Bouchercon I met a second, different one, so I knew something was up in the food world.

A few weeks ago we had relatives visiting Cape Cod, so we joined them for lunch. They recommended a small, local restaurant down the road a mile or so: the Keltic Kitchen. Please forgive the place for their kitschy name, because the food is definitely Irish. Their menu is massive, but they had one page with multiple Bennys (Bennies?).

I ordered the most elaborate one, the Potato Cake Salmon Benny. And it was spectacular.

As near as I can figure, an edible benny is a creative adaptation of the old stand-by Eggs Benedict. The only consistent characteristic is the presence of a poached egg and hollandaise sauce on top. Underneath that, anything goes.

So here’s my homage to the Keltic Kitchen Potato Cake Salmon Benny.

Potato pancakes (two for each serving)
Thinly sliced smoked salmon
Thinly sliced red onion
A poached egg (it should be runny)
Hollandaise sauce*
A sprinkling of capers

*A note re hollandaise sauce: The traditional version is complicated to make, but I remembered that Julie Child had provided the simpler version called Blender Hollandaise in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Three ingredients: egg yolks, lemon juice and butter (plus a bit of salt and pepper). You make it in a blender (you remember those, right? The one I used was a wedding gift in harvest gold). 

I’m sure somebody has updated the recipe for a food processor or immersion blender. But I give you permission to buy the stuff if you can find it, or (gasp) just use mayonnaise.

For the potato pancakes, shred the potatoes, make patties about a half-inch thick, and cook them on an oiled grill until they’re golden brown and crunchy. These are what hold the whole thing together.

Place one potato pancake on a plate, then layer on the smoked salmon and the onions (if you like onions—the red ones are mild).

Gently poach an egg (you can do this ahead) and lay it on top. (Sound of hysterical laughter. I own an egg poacher, inherited from my mother. Can I find it, the one time in this millennium that I decided to poach eggs? No, of course not. Back to Julia Child, who makes it simple–along the lines of “slip a raw egg into simmering water, wait, remove from water and place in cold water.”)

Add a nice dollop of hollandaise sauce on the poached egg, then sprinkle with the capers. Place the second potato pancake on top. Serve hot!

And that’s it! If you’ve got the timing right, when you break into the egg, it melds with the hollandaise sauce and runs over and into the yummy stuff beneath. And the combination is amazing--crunchy, tart, tangy, salty.

A note: this is a large sandwich and makes a hearty lunch. And you can’t even think about picking it up—it takes a fork. But it’s worth the effort.

The next time I’m in that Cape Cod neighborhood (just east of Hyannis), I’m going back. If you’re ever vacationing on the Cape, stop in for a meal. And the manager happens to be from West Cork—I asked. Hmm—I know a great place for smoked salmon in West Cork . . .

A final note: having now made this dish, I think having a kitchen staff working with you (and cleaning up) is a good idea--it takes lot of pots and pans!

Seeds of Deception is out!

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and plenty of bookstores (I hope!).


  1. Looks good but a lot of work. Good job.

  2. The egg and the hollandaise are the trickiest to make, but the results were yummy. Still haven't found that egg poacher. Did people at home really eat that many poached eggs?

    1. For a long time I had one (or two sometimes) for breakfast every morning, cooked in an egg poacher pan, and served on toast. :-)

    2. My mother and grandmother liked soft-boiled eggs served in a china egg cup. We had a neat device that sliced off the top so you could get a spoon into the egg. I'm still not sure why my mother had that poacher.

  3. Until you clarified it, I didn't realize that I have run across various types of bennies (bene's?).
    Tempting and delicious.


  4. A lot of prep but it does sound so yummy & tasty. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Now I know what I want to make for breakfast this weekend! I wonder if you could get a bag of frozen hash browns and form them into potato pancakes thus eliminating at least one step? I like to poach eggs in water (I find they are more tender) but we have these plastic egg poaching "things" (the kind of look like a bra without straps because each of them makes two eggs) that you put in the microwave and in 30 seconds you have a poached egg. It's great when you're in a hurry.

    1. Brilliant idea! I do use those for a potato casserole recipe I got from my sister-in-law.

  6. This looks like my kind of Benny! Thanks!

  7. We have a diner near us that makes Crab Cakes Benedict. It's crab cakes topped with "dippy eggs" (poached eggs), and they put crab meat in the sauce. I'm not sure if it counts as a benny but it is delicious.