Friday, October 30, 2015

Hollandase Sauce . . . Another of the Mother Sauces of French Cooking

So, you might ask, what's the story of Hollandaise Sauce?  There's some debate about who originally invented this delectable addition to any meal - breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Some food historians think it was developed in the Netherlands, hence the name, and taken to France by the Huguenots.  Others believe that Hollandaise was developed and served to the King of the Netherlands by a French chef in French King's court sometime in the 17th century.  Who knows for sure?  Not I.

This is what it looks like when it's ready to eat!
It's probable that the original sauce may not have had egg yolks involved at all - simply sweet butter and a touch of acid, in the form of vinegar or lemon juice.  And, certainly many gourmet cooks and restaurants today serve a sweet butter and lemon sauce on such dishes as "Sole Meuniere," one of my favorite dinners to order in San Francisco, where the fish is so fresh and the Meyer lemons and sweet butter from our California countryside make Sole Meuniere so fabulous.  Mmmmm, my mouth is watering for some right now!

Okay, back to the story:  Hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter, usually seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar.  The tang of the acidic lemon juice should provide a definite tang, but shouldn't overpower the velvety smooth sauce.

Once again the recipe is simple - only three main ingredients:  egg yolks, butter, and lemon.  Ah, but then there is the preparation and that requires some practice and patience.  As many of you know, cooking egg yolks can be challenging - cook them over too low a heat and they don't thicken, cook them over too high a heat and they curdle.  So, read the recipe carefully and when you make it for the first time, do it when there's not any stress associated with company coming!

My first lessons in the preparation of Hollandaise were from Julia Child on "The French Chef" TV series beginning in 1963.  However, through the years I've modified and personalized the sauce so that now I can say the following is truly my recipe.

Mimi's Hollandaise Sauce

2 large fresh eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ pound (one cube of a one-pound package) of salted butter, cut in half

1)  Separate each of two fresh eggs over a small bowl using the egg shell halves technique of cracking the egg carefully and pouring the contents back and forth between the egg shell halves until all of the egg white has fallen into the bowl.  Then holding the yolk in one of the half shells, drop the yolk into a small room temperature saucepan.  Do the same for the second egg.  Now you have a bowl with 2 egg whites that can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen for up to a month.  And, you have two egg yolks in the saucepan.

2)  Add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice  to the saucepan - bottled if you don't have fresh, but  fresh is always preferable.  Add ½  of the cube of butter.  This is probably the only time I really prefer to use salted butter.  I'm a sweet unsalted butter fan.; but, I find that salted butter is all you need for seasoning in this sauce; sometimes I also add a little white pepper, but not often and not much.

3)  So you have your 3 ingredients in the saucepan.  Move it over a very low heat to begin the process of melting the butter.  Using a whisk or a wooden spoon, stir the ingredients constantly for the entire time the pan is on the heat, first to blend the ingredients and then to make sure they heat slowly and evenly - to avoid curdling the egg yolks.  (More about curdling cures later).

4)  Maintaining a low heat, stir the ingredients until they are mixed and hot to the touch.  Add the second ½ of the cube of butter and continue to heat and stir for several minutes until the emulsion of ingredients is complete and the sauce has thickened to a medium-thick consistency.

Although most recipes say you must make Hollandaise at the last minute, right before serving, I've found that it's perfectly acceptable to make it up to several hours before it's needed.  You can pour the sauce into a bowl or you can leave it in the saucepan.  The important thing to remember is that it needs to has a sheet of plastic wrap placed right on the surface of the sauce itself to prevent a film from forming.  It's not good enough to just stretch foil or plastic over the bowl / pan.  Refrigerate the sauce for up to several hours, even overnight if it's to be used for something like Eggs Benedict for the next day's brunch.  Remove it from the refrigerator an let it come up to room temperature before serving.  Sometimes I simply serve the sauce at room temperature; it's 'heated' by the vegetable or dish it's embellishing.  And, sometimes I choose to reheat it on the stove being VERY CAREFUL to use the lowest heat possible to prevent curdling.

Ideas for serving this delectable sauce:

Eggs Benedict - spooned over the toasted English muffin, Canadian bacon, and poached egg

Omelettes - just about any flavor, except maybe Mexican or Asian

Asparagus / broccoli / cauliflower / green beans / spinach Hollandaise

Any broiled, grilled, or sautéed fish - Sole Meuniere is just an example

Variations of Hollandaise - sometimes referred to as "mayonnaise sauces" - here are a few:

Meuniere Sauce - mentioned earlier

Béarnaise Sauce - it's considered to be a "child" of Hollandaise.  It's a traditional sauce for steak.
       It uses vinegar in place of lemon and is flavored with shallots, fresh tarragon / chervil, and
       fresh peppercorns

Sauce au Vin Blanc - adding a reduction of white wine and sometimes fish stock to Hollandaise sauce

Sauce Choron - a variation of Béarnaise without the tarragon or chervil, plus added tomato paste

Sauce Valois - a version of Béarnaise flavored with a meat glaze from what meat's being roasted
Café de Paris sauce - a version of Béarnaise with curry powder added
Sauce Paloise - has mint substituting for the tarragon in Béarnaise

These are just a few - the list of variations is almost endless.

Jeff, Kari, and Spencer were raised on Hollandaise; it was to "go to" addition sauce  for so many meals.  I'd hazard to guess that almost any food can be made more special with Hollandaise!

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Béchamel Sauce . . . A Mother Sauce of French Cooking

This is one of the new posts I'm writing that I hope will be of interest to my grandchildren, and maybe even great-grandchildren, one day.

Béchamel, also known as "White Sauce" is made from a roux (butter and flour) an milk.  It is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine.  It is used as a base for innumerable other sauces (such as Mornay Sauce - which is Béchamel with cheese).

Origin:  According to Wikipedia, "Béchamel" was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to King Louis XIV.  The sauce under its familiar name first appeared in Le Cuisinier Francois, published in 1651.

Recipe for a medium-thickness white sauce:

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 Cup heated milk.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat
Add the flour to the butter in the pan, stirring with a whisk for a minute or two, being careful not to
      brown the roux, as this is going to be a white sauce
Gradually add the previously heated milk (heated in another saucepan or in a microwave - just until
     it's warm to the touch
Continue to stir until the sauce has thickened and is smooth.

The proportion of roux and milk determines the thickness of the sauce, typically the ratio is 1-3 tablespoons of butter and flour to one cup of milk.  One tablespoon butter and flour to one cup of milk makes a thin white sauce, three tablespoons of butter and flour to one cup of milk makes an extra thick sauce (used for soufflé base, for example).

With a little practice this white sauce becomes the sauce base for any number of recipes.  The ingredients can be flexible; for example, using the same ratio of fat, flour and liquid, you could use two tablespoons of turkey fat drippings from your roast turkey with two tablespoons of flour to make the roux.  Then you could use homemade turkey broth (from simmering the turkey neck, wingtips, and giblets).   The ratio is not variable, though.  It's always a ratio of equal amounts of butter and flour to a cup of liquid.

Béchamel Sauce
Mimi July 2015
Antigua, Guatemala

Monday, October 26, 2015

Redding, California

I've spent today with my sister-in-law, Barb, helping her prepare for colon surgery tomorrow.  The pre-op prep is rather arduous.  Barb is 79 years old and has a little problem with 'recent memory' loss.  Her surgery was originally scheduled for last week, but had to be cancelled because she had forgotten to do the day-before prep.  So, along comes nurse Mary-Pat!  I accompanied her and her husband,
Fred, to her family doctor last Friday.  Dr. Dillon asked that I spend today with Barb to make sure that the pre-op preparation is done properly.

I arrived here at 7:45 this morning, and have been badgering Barb ever since to make sure that all steps of the prep are carried out per the doctor's orders.  It's safe to say that I'm not very popular with Barb right now; she may even think I'm a sadist!!!  We have about 2 more hours of Barb drinking a nasty-tasting large volume of fluids; then, she can try to get some sleep before her early-morning wake up alarm.

Barb is the widow of my ex-husband's brother, who died many years ago at a very young age.  It was Barb and Fred who first introduced me to RV-ing.  They've been long-time RV-ers, beginning with a Eurovan, a Chalet, and now a Jayco Grayhawk.  Most of their RV-ing has been in the western states and Mexico; even though they aren't any longer taking long trips, they still head from Redding to the California coast several times a year, often to escape the heat of this area in the hot months, which can be from late March into November!  Thankfully, today was mild, the thermometer not even reaching 80F.  Yippee!

Just dug out this photo of Barb (right) with her best
friend, Ann, at a Halloween party we went to last
Great-grandson, Daniel, giving G.G.
(great grandma) a kiss this afternoon
Great Granddaughter, Dakota, 11 ½ months - absolutely
adorable and such a happy little girl.  Mom Kristi and
dad, Doug (my grand-nephew) are
expecting baby #3 in about 3 weeks.  It's another
girl; her name will be Shay.

And finally, I dug out this old photo of my daughter,
Kari and her first three kids with Mimi (that's me!).
The photo was taken about 20 years ago.  Quinn was
about 8, Addison 3 ½ and Holland about 11
months.  Quinn is close to 28, Addison almost 24, and
will be 22 in April.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tehama County, California

Spending time with my son, Jeff, and his beautiful family in Cottonwood, California, about 150 miles north of Sacramento.  Although the main reasons for my trip to California were to attend the wedding of my oldest granddaughter, Quinn, and divest myself of the majority of my worldly possessions in order to become a truly "free spirit," I'm currently spending a lot of time with my sister-in-law, Barb, and her partner, Fred.

Barbara has been diagnosed with a colon mass and will have surgery this coming Tuesday.  I'm helping both of them with this immediate preoperative period and will stay with them for a few days when she's discharged from the hospital.  I happy to be able to use my nursing skills to help them through this difficult and confusing time.  I've known Barb since I was 16-years old; she more like the sister I never had than a sister-in-law; now, as a 79-year old, she can use some help with her medical care as it's very confusing to her - and Fred.

I'm sure I've mentioned before in this blog about the extreme heat in this, the uppermost part of California's San Joaquin Valley.  Summers are becoming just way too long and unbearable for me; thank goodness, the temperature is now in the upper 70s and low 80s, and dry - very comfortable without having to use air conditioning with all doors and windows closed!

A few photos to share . . .
Quinn "enjoying" her honeymoon with Mom in Belize
More on that later!  God has a great design for her.
Ours is to find out what it is!  She is just as beautiful on
the inside as on the outside.
Lovely daughter, Kari, enjoying some shade on the beach
in Belize.  She's a Rock of Gibraltar for her family.

Sunset yesterday after a wonderfully mild 78F in Cottonwood.
Jeff and family have a small "ranch" so no nearby neighbors to interrupt
the quiet and serenity.

This may be the last photo I'll have of my adventuring RVs and Smart Car.
I've loved traveling and meeting all my RV-adventuring friends; but, now
it's time to go on to other types of adventures.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Around and About Antigua

Antigua Guatemala
Antigua, the capital of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, was founded in the early 16th century. Built 1,500 m above sea-level, in an earthquake-prone region, it was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 but its principal monuments are still preserved as ruins. In the space of under three centuries the city, which was built on a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance, acquired a number of superb monuments.

La Antigua Guatemala
Official seal of La Antigua Guatemala
Nickname(s): La Antigua or Antigua
La Antigua Guatemala is located in Guatemala
La Antigua Guatemala
La Antigua Guatemala
Location in Guatemala
Coordinates: 14°34′N 90°44′W
CountryFlag of Guatemala.svg Guatemala
Population (2007)
 • Total34,685
Criteria:ii, iii, iv
Designated:1979 (3rd session)
Reference No.65
State Party: Guatemala
Region:Latin America and the Caribbean
Antigua Guatemala (Spanish pronunciation: [anˈtiɣwa ɣwateˈmala]) (commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua) is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Antigua Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez Department.


Homestead in ruins of a colonial Spanish building; Volcanes de Fuego (erupting on left) and Acatenango visible in distance
The city had a peak population of some 60,000 in the 1770s; the bulk of the population moved away in the late 18th century. Despite significant population growth in the late 20th century, the city had only reached half that number by the 1990s. According to the 2007 census, the city has some 34,685 inhabitants.


Antigua Guatemala means "Ancient Guatemala" and was the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Iximche, on Monday, July 25, 1524—the day of Saint James—and therefore named Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemalan (City of Saint James of the Knights of Guatemala). Naturally, St. James became the patron saint of the city.

Façade of the former El Carmen church
After several Kaqchikel uprisings, the capital was moved to a more suitable site in the Valley of Almolonga (place of water) on November 22, 1527, and kept its original name. This new city was located on the site of present-day San Miguel Escobar,[1] which is a neighborhood in the municipality of Ciudad Vieja.[2] This city was destroyed on September 11, 1541 by a devastating lahar from the Volcán de Agua.[3] As a result, the colonial authorities decided to move the capital once more, this time five miles away to the Panchoy Valley. So, on March 10, 1543 the Spanish conquistadors founded present-day Antigua, and again, it was named Santiago de los Caballeros. For more than 200 years it served as the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala, a large region that included almost all of present-day Central America and the southernmost State of Mexico: Chiapas. In 1566 King Felipe II of Spain gave it the title of "Muy Noble y Muy Leal" ("Very Noble and Very Loyal").
On September 29, 1717, an estimated 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Antigua Guatemala, and destroyed over 3,000 buildings. Much of the city's architecture was ruined. The damage the earthquake did to the city made authorities consider moving the capital to another city.
In 1773, the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town, which led to the third change in location for the city.[4] The Spanish Crown ordered, in 1776, the removal of the capital to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was christened Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Assumption), and its patron saint is Our Lady of the Assumption. The badly damaged city of Santiago de los Caballeros was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left, and was thereafter referred to as la Antigua Guatemala (the Old Guatemala).
As of 1850, Antigua had an estimated population of 9,000.[5]

Antigua today[edit]

Central Park (Parque Central) is the heart of the city. The reconstructed fountain there is a popular gathering spot. Off to the side of the Central Park, the Arco de Santa Catalina is among the many notable architectural landmarks of La Antigua.
La Antigua is noted for its very elaborate religious celebrations during Lent (Cuaresma), leading up to Holy Week (Semana Santa) and Easter (Pascua). Each Sunday in Lent, one of the local parishes sponsor a Procession through the streets of Antigua. Elaborate and beautiful artistic carpets predominantly made of dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles and even fruits and vegetables adorn the processions' path.
Due to its popularity amongst tourists and its very well developed tourism infrastructure, Antigua Guatemala is often used as a central location in which many choose to set up base and from here, visit other tourist areas in Guatemala and Central America. Cruise ships that dock at Guatemalan ports offer trips to Antigua from both the Pacific and Atlantic. Antigua also holds a sizeable retirement community from the US as well as Europe, drawn by its colonial charm and mild climate.


Historically, the area was considered to be one of the finest agriculturally in Guatemala.[5] Tourism is the main driver of the economy. Antigua is also a coffee-producing region of Anacafé.

Tourists visiting Antigua, 2005

Language schools[edit]

Antigua is known as a destination for people who want to learn Spanish through immersion. There are many Spanish language schools in Antigua, and it is one of the most popular and best recognized centers for Spanish language study by students from Europe, Asia and North America. Language institutes are one of the primary industries of Antigua, along with tourism.


The University of San Carlos in Antigua was founded by the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent XI issued dated 18 June 1687.


Antigua GFC football club has played in the Guatemala top division for several years but have been playing in the second division lately. Their home stadium is the Estadio Pensativo which has a capacity of 9,000. They are nicknamed Los panzas verdes ("Green bellies").


There are many restaurants in Antigua. Many small eateries can be found at the Antigua marketplace, next to the central bus stop, as well as adjoining the main market and within it. Mediterranean, Italian, Asian, American, and traditional Guatemalan cuisines are represented.


Antigua is a growing tourist destination in Guatemala as it is close to Guatemala City but is much calmer and safer, with more tourist oriented activities. It is possible to take buses from Antigua to many parts of Guatemala, many travel agencies offer shuttles to the main touristic places: Monterrico beach, Atitlan Lake, Coban, Lanquin (Semuc Champey), Tikal or even Copan in Honduras, though the transportation is more central in Guatemala City. Antigua is also known for its chocolate makers and all the ruins that are part of it.

Important ruins and other tourist attractions[edit]

Palacio de los Capitanes, Plaza Central
  • Museum of the Old Book (El Libro Antiguo)
  • Museum of Colonial Art, in the former San Carlos University Building
  • The Jade museum
  • Casa del Turista



Arch connecting two parts of old Convent, Volcán de Agua in background
Three large volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua.
The most commanding, to the south of the city, is the Volcán de Agua or "Volcano of Water", some 3,766 metres (12,356 ft) high. When the Spanish arrived, the inhabitants of the zone, Kakchikel Mayas, called it Hunapú (and they still do). However, it became known as Volcán de Agua after a lahar from the volcano buried the second site of the capital, which prompted the Spanish authorities to move the capital to present-day Antigua. The original site of the 2nd capital is now the village San Miguel Escobar.
To the west of the city are a pair of peaks, Acatenango, last erupted in 1972, some 3,976 metres (13,045 ft) high, and the Volcán de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire", some 3,763 metres (12,346 ft) high. "Fuego" is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Steam and gas issue from its top daily, a larger eruption occurred in September 2012.