Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who works at the Liverpool mall?
I’d been waiting 16 years to eat a perfect eggs benedict in San Miguel de Allende. That wait is finally over.
I’ve always been able to find decent bennies on quite a few of the town’s restaurant menus. Hank’s has been my go-to Sunday brunch place for years. And Lavanda might poach as many eggs for bennies as all other San Miguel restaurants combined. And deservedly so. But it’s not a real eggs benedict. Lavanda uses a brioche in their bennies. A real eggs benedict uses an English muffin not a French brioche.
So I’ve eaten most of my bennies at home, courtesy of the culinary skills of Don Day’s Wife. And at home is where I finally had the perfect one.
A traditional eggs benedict consists of four things. An English muffin, a perfectly poached (not hard, not soft) egg, a slice of thick-cut bacon, and hollandaise sauce.
We’ve always been able to get excellent eggs in San Miguel, better tasting, in my opinion, than any commercially marketed eggs in the U.S. or Canada (you can read my theories on this at http://dondayinsma.com/2016/06/16/trying-eggsplain-mexicans-better/). My only qualm has been that Mexico doesn’t size them, so I don’t always get jumbos.
Canadian-style back or peameal bacon used to be a stumbling block. But not anymore. These days, Don Day’s Wife brines her own pork loins.
Hollandaise used to be a problem, too. Because sourcing lemons in San Miguel was a problem. And we had to substitute not quite as good lime juice in the sauce. My first solution was to plant a Eureka lemon tree at home but I am lucky to get three or four pieces of fruit off it in a year. Then, about a year ago, the supermarket La Comer began stocking lemons. Ingredient number three solved.
All that was left to find was a decent muffin or, as we call it in North America, an English muffin, in order to differentiate it from the sweet, cupcake-shaped muffin.
Now a muffin is not a complicated thing to bake. But Don Day’s Wife doesn’t like to bake uncomplicated things. In fact, muffins have always been something you buy not bake. In Victorian times, “muffin men” would walk the streets carrying baskets of muffins on their head and a bell in their hand. In A Brief History of Life in Victorian Britain, Michael Paterson wrote, “The ringing of a handbell was one of the most joyous sounds in a Victorian childhood”.
The earliest account I could find of English muffins’ existence in North America was an ad in The Buffalo Daily Republic for Thomas’ Dining Saloon that appeared in 1859.
That word Thomas was also the name on the most famous of all North American muffin makers. Samuel Bath Thomas opened his first New York bakery in 1880. You can still find his name on six-packs of English muffins in U.S. supermarkets and, until a year or two ago, in the freezer case at La Comer in San Miguel de Allende.
They were fine as far as frozen muffins go. They were our “go-to” muffin for a long time until they were replaced in the supermarket by New York Deli & Bagel’s English Muffins. They’re fine too. But they’re not a fresh-baked muffin. For my perfect eggs benedict my muffin must have spent some time that day in an oven.
The tip came from right next door to where I live. My neighbor Nikol inquired if I had tried Marulier’s muffins. I hadn’t. She gave me one to try. I was absolutely wowed.
Simon Marulier opened his mostly French bakery in Plaza La Luciérnaga three years ago. Two years ago he added a charming cafe. These days, it’s hard to visit Soriana or Liverpool without a minor detour for a Marulier croissant or baguette and a line at the counter is now the norm.
“You should ask Hector” said Marulier’s manager, Jessica, when I tried to unveil the secrets to their muffins ingleses. “Hector Gabriel is in charge of making our muffins.”
“It’s really only one thing”, said Hector, “olive oil”. The traditional English muffins recipe uses shortening.
“Actually, I should say it’s two things”, said Hector as we moved to the kitchen so he could show off Marulier’s oven. “I make the dough the day before and the time it spends overnight in the refrigerator is just as important.”
“And where did this great recipe come from”, I asked him.
“I guess it’s mostly mine”, Hector replied, prodding his chest with his forefinger.
The muffins have that just right amount of yeastiness. They’re light but still have a nice chew. I now had everything needed for Don Day’s Wife to make our version of the perfect eggs benedict.
Two Marulier muffins were sliced and went into the toaster oven. Don Day’s Wife sliced her homemade peameal bacon and browned it in the skillet.
Four eggs went into the non-stick poacher (a very worthwhile investment if you want your eggs to look as good as they taste). The hollandaise (with a sprinkle of dried tarragon) was whisked. And two of the good glass plates were taken from the buffet.
It took 16 years in San Miguel but I had finally found my muffin man. I finally had my perfect benny.
Marulier is located at Libriamento José Manuel Zavala 165, in Plaza La Luciérnaga, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm every day except Monday.