Take Eggs Benedict To The Next Level With One Briny Ingredient

Eggs Benedict is a classic brunch dish, simple but decadent. With oozy poached eggs, fatty Canadian bacon, and silky hollandaise sauce poured on top, it's a meal so rich it can border on heavy. A little brightness from a dash of salt can cut through that richness; a squeeze of lemon in the hollandaise can help, too. But adding another tart and briny ingredient counterbalances that richness even more: capers.

You may have used this olive-like ingredient in a recipe for chicken piccata or eaten them on a lox bagel, but might not know that adding capers to your homemade hollandaise adds a huge amount of flavor (in a tiny package) to eggs Benedict. This variation on hollandaise sauce, which can be made either by infusing the butter with capers or simply mixing them into the sauce at the end, is often served with smoked salmon eggs Benedict. However, it's just as delicious with the classic preparation while bringing an unexpected pop of bright and briny flavor.

What are capers?

What, exactly, are those briny little spheres called capers, and where do they get their tart, salty flavor? Capers are the green, unripe flower buds of a Mediterranean plant called capparis spinosa or the caper bush. After harvesting, these buds are dried, then salt-cured or pickled in a brine to infuse them with their characteristic tart taste. Capers are popular ingredients in many Mediterranean dishes such as pasta puttanesca; they're often added to meaty, rich dishes such as stews to cut through the heavy flavors. Their burst of tangy, citrusy brightness is why they work so well as a flavoring for hollandaise sauce and a variety of other sauces, dips, and condiments.

Capers range in size from 7 millimeters, known as nonpareils, up to 14 millimeters in diameter. Smaller capers typically have a more delicate texture and the flavors are more concentrated while being less acidic than larger capers; for this reason, consider using smaller capers in your hollandaise sauce. 

Other uses for capers at the brunch table

The flavor of capers is powerful, and even a rich and velvety sauce like hollandaise doesn't need more than a few tablespoons to capture all of the salty, briny goodness they bring to a dish. After you add a tablespoon or two of capers to your hollandaise recipe, know there are plenty of other uses at the brunch table for that opened jar of capers.

Capers are a popular garnish for bagels and lox, where the fruits can be sprinkled on top of the salmon directly without any sort of preparation other than draining them first. They are also at home as an ingredient in several additional egg dishes — they can be mixed into creamy scrambled eggs, added to egg salad, and even perched atop your favorite avocado toast. Anywhere your meal could use a little extra salt and tang, toss a few capers into the mix and you'll likely be pleased with the results.