|This is what it looks like when it's ready to eat!|
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
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
Sauce au Vin Blanc - adding a reduction of white wine and sometimes fish stock to Hollandaise sauce
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