Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I suspect the same person who invented mayonnaise had something to do with the development of hollandaise sauce.  They are both an emulsion of eggs and an oily substance.

The tricky part of hollandaise is to cook the eggs enough that you don't make anyone sick, but keep them from curdling to achieve the creamy texture.  Also, to time it so it's ready just when the rest of dinner is and nothing ends up overcooked while waiting for something else to catch up.  If you whisk constantly and use a double-boiler or a similar set-up, you should be successful.  I think I made my first batch as a teenager.  People make it out to be a lot scarier than it really is.

This is more or less the Bible's recipe.  They divide the butter into three portions, not four.  There is also a microwave version, but I don't like the idea of cooking it in 15-second increments.  Some chefs will insist that you only use pre-melted clarified butter, but I think the butter solids help to stabilize it without changing the flavor.  The Bible says you can use margarine; I've never tried it and can't vouch for them.

As for uses, Hollandaise goes well with almost any fish or shellfish and most green vegetables.  A properly cooked steak is not overwhelmed by it.  It is the sauce on Eggs Benedict, because there is nothing better to pour on ham and eggs than butter and eggs.

3 egg yolks
2 Tb lemon juice
1/2 C unsalted butter, cut into 4 2Tb chunks, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Use a double boiler, or fill a saucepan partway with water and set a bowl on top which fits snugly.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

2.  Add egg yolks and lemon juice to bowl.  Whisk until smooth.

3.  Add one chunk of butter to eggs and whisk until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.  Continue with remaining chunks.  Mixture will thicken and become a paler yellow.  If the water below starts to boil at any point, reduce the heat.  (I used a Visions saucepan so I could keep an eye on the water.)

4.  Remove bowl from heat, but keep the water simmering.  Add salt and any other seasonings*.  Serve immediately, or return to heat whenever it starts to stiffen.  Stirring regularly will keep it smooth.

*For the fish in the photo, I added a pinch of saffron and a wee bit of mustard.  For any herb or spice you may add or use as garnish, add sparingly.

Makes 2/3 C

Difficulty rating  :)

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