Thursday, February 18, 2016
How To Make Hollandaise Sauce
Hollandaise Sauce is made from butter and lemon juice held in creamy suspension by egg yolks, and usually relegated to the “horrible pain in the butt” culinary category. It’s often regarded as “kinda fancy” and the real stuff is something you only get in restaurants.
You can get the envelopes of awful powdered stuff in the chili-seasoning-and-powdered-gravy section of the grocery store, but that’s a poor substitute for the real deal. I won’t fault anyone who knows it simply as, “that yellow stuff that goes on Eggs Benedict.”
I’ll let you in on why it’s dreaded: it’s easy to over-cook the egg yolks if you’re not careful, resulting in a clumpy, separated sauce that will not thicken. Also, it’s difficult to “hold” (keep warm without ruining) for long periods of time. Hollandaise should be served warm, not hot, and will separate if over-heated, therefore, even the stuff in restaurants is often (gasp!) bought pre-made.
There are a few techniques that can be used to hold the sauce or “bring it back” if it begins to curdle, and I’ll disclose them to you after we make our hollandaise.
And I think you'll want to make it - it is delicious and takes about 5 minutes to make once you get your technique down—no longer than making regular ol’ gravy. It is best served on asparagus, poached eggs (or eggs benedict) and fish. There are variants, such as béarnaise sauce, that are also delicious on red meat. I think you’ll find it’s well worth the trouble to learn how to do this.
This recipe makes 1-1/2 cups of sauce.
-A double boiler or (my favorite) an aluminum bowl over a simmering pot of water
-A wire whisk
-A pan of ice water*
-1 1/2 sticks melted butter
-2 tbsp cold butter, divided
-3 egg yolks
-1 tbsp lemon juice
-1 tbsp water
-Generous pinch of salt
-A little extra lemon juice, to taste
-Salt and white pepper, to taste
*The ice water is kept to the side. If the egg yolks start to over cook, plunge the bowl or top pot into the ice water to stop the cooking immediately.
Whip the egg yolks in the bowl off-heat for about 60 seconds until they become sticky. Add the 1 tbsp of lemon juice, water, and salt and beat for 30 seconds more.
Add 1 tbsp of cold butter and place the bowl over the pan of simmering water. Beat in the butter with the whisk until the butter melts and the contents thicken into a light cream. They will be done once you start seeing the bottom of the bowl or pan between strokes and the cream coats the wires of the whisk. This should take 1-2 minutes.
Note: If the yolks start thickening too quickly or begin to suggest turning lumpy, plunge the bottom of the bowl or pan into the ice water, then put them back over the heat and beat a little more until they reach the proper consistency.
Add the last tbsp. of cold butter and remove from heat, beating the butter into the mixture. Beat in the melted butter by droplets, slowly at first, then a bit more rapidly until the sauce becomes a thick cream.
Season the sauce to taste with drops of extra lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Holding the sauce:
The sauce will hold nicely for about an hour if you keep the bowl or pan in a bowl of hot water once the sauce is done. If the sauce starts to separate, beating it a little bit should bring it back. You can also beat in 1 tsp. cornstarch into the yolks at the beginning.
If the sauce is too thick:
Add a tablespoon or so of heavy cream, milk, hot water, or stock to thin it out.
If the sauce will not thicken:
This method will always work. Rinse out a mixing bowl with hot water. Beat a teaspoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of sauce in the bowl with the whisk, then add the sauce a little bit at a time (half-tablespoons), beating in after each addition.
If the sauce breaks (separates):
Beating in about a tablespoon of cold water should bring it back, otherwise use the previous technique.
How to store and reheat:
Hollandaise will keep in the fridge for a couple of days or can be frozen. To reheat it, beat about 2 tbsp over hot water in a double boiler, adding the rest of the sauce gradually.
Stirring in some fresh herbs such as dill or chives is good for fish.
To make a béarnaise sauce (which is basically a differently-flavored hollandaise that is suitable for red meats), use ¼ c of tarragon vinegar and ¼ c of white wine plus 1 tbsp. of chopped fresh tarragon (or ½ tbsp. dried) and 1 tbsp of minced shallots.
Boil and reduce to make 2 tbsp of liquid. Substitute the reduced liquid in place of the lemon juice in the hollandaise recipe. Sprinkle a little bit of tarragon on top. Adding 2-4 tbsp of tomato paste to a finished béarnaise sauce makes it “choron sauce”. These are great for steaks and red meat.