Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hollandaise How-To

Hollandaise How-To
Asparagus cloaked with velvety rich Hollandaise sauce.

Easter is on the way and, like all things that need our time an attention, it will be here all too soon. One thing served at many Easter dinners is asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. I'd like to show you how to make this and to assure you that I'm an expert of sorts on this particular sauce. Let me fill you in.

Way back in 1993 I went to culinary school. I knew how to cook already and was fairly good at it, but I wanted to know more. My dream had been to open my own cafe or bed and breakfast and I wanted a good solid foundation for the many dishes I imagined myself serving up.

I did quite well, if I do say so myself, and even excelled in a spot or two. Some things made me very nervous, though and I skipped a day here and there in an effort to get out of the practical end of my grade for a few classes. Fish cleaning was one. I stayed home only to find that I still had to clean a huge red snapper the next day. My fears weren't without warrant; I stabbed a thumb with a fish bone and it was literally sore for weeks. See? I should have skipped that entire section.

I also was scared beyond belief to make Hollandaise. It was drilled into our heads that there was a very real risk of our sauce breaking if we were to even breathe the wrong way. It wasn't likely that we would succeed ... etc. etc. Who in their right mind would show up on that day? Surely not me.

Lo and behold, my professor was sharper than that and reminded me the next day that I still had to do the practical for Hollandaise. I went ahead and held my breath, beating egg yolks with cayenne pepper and lemon juice. I slowly, slowly poured in the clarified butter. It was perfect. I was shocked, but thrilled that I had not only passed, but exceeded my own expectations.

Once the rest of the class caught on to the fact that I made it without a problem, they started asking me to make it for them. They would sidle over to me on the line during the weeks we had the restaurant to run and whisper, "Can you make my Hollandaise for me?" I was naive enough to comply and I'm certain part of the reason I developed carpal tunnel syndrome was nudged along by my Hollandaise making days.

I still make it, but only for special occasions, and I know there are recipes for the blender and also those using whole butter (and sauce from packets - gasp!), but I still like to pull out my typed recipe (I didn't have a computer in those days) and get to it.

Here is the recipe; use it as you wish on Asparagus or roast beef or, my favorite way, in Eggs Benedict.

Making Clarified Butter
Three sticks of salted butter.

Making Clarified Butter
Skimming the foam from the top.

Making Clarified Butter
Foam skimmed and milk solids on the bottom.

Making Clarified Butter
Clarified butter ready to use.

Hollandaise How-To
Three egg yolks with lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

Hollandaise How-To
Egg yolks beaten to the correct consistency.

Hollandaise How-To
The perfect velvety smooth sauce.

Hollandaise How-To
My original typed recipe from 1993. Note the grease stain on the bottom right - no doubt from clarified butter 

Hollandaise Sauce
Makes 1 pint


3 sticks salted butter - 12 ounces
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice from 1/2  a lemon - about 2 teaspoons
Clarified butter from 3 sticks - about 10 ounces
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt


1. Heat a small saucepan of water over medium heat to simmering.
2. Place egg yolks, lemon juice and cayenne in a non-reactive metal bowl and set over water.
3. Beat egg yolks until smooth and lemon yellow. Keep them moving so they do not cook.
4. Pour in clarified butter very slowly and in a very thin stream. Keep whisking the yolks and incorporating the butter in a constant motion.
5. Once all butter has been whisked in the sauce should coat the back of a spoon or leave ribbon impressions as the whisk moves through it.
6. Whisk in salt and serve immediately.

No comments: