If you are like me, the thought of making hollandaise sauce can be intimidating, but the fear surrounding this preparation is completely exaggerated.
Hollandaise can easily be made with a couple of easy tricks and tools. One of the five basic culinary “mother sauces,” hollandaise is an emulsion made with egg yolks, lemon juice, melted butter (traditionally clarified butter or ghee with the milk solids removed) and cayenne pepper.
The sauce should be eaten warm and has a rich pourable texture that coats the food with a delicate buttery and tangy flavor. It is excellent with most green vegetables, fish, steak, roast beef and the beloved eggs benedict. It’s a great recipe to have in your repertoire for your next brunch or dinner party.
Whether you’re whisking or blending, the secret to perfectly creamy hollandaise is to whisk the egg yolks well and to add the butter in a slow and steady stream. Hollandaise made in a blender emulsifies in just a few minutes and eliminates the job of whisking egg yolks over a double boiler. You can keep it warm in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, but for no more than an hour. If you can, serve it immediately.
There are also a number of secondary sauces that can be made from hollandaise:
Bearnaise: Add shallots, tarragon and crushed black peppercorns. It goes well with grilled steak.
Choron: Add tomato paste to the basic bearnaise and serve it on steak, eggs, chicken, fish and vegetables.
Dijon: Add Dijon mustard to the basic hollandaise for a pungent taste to serve with grilled chicken, vegetables or fish.
Maltaise: A classic sauce made by adding the juice of blood oranges to a basic hollandaise sauce. It’s tangy, and a little sweeter than a regular hollandaise and is traditionally served with asparagus or broccoli.
Classic hollandaise sauce
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water
4 tablespoons butter, diced
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water over medium heat. Add the egg yolk and cold water. Whisking all the time, gradually add the butter, a few pieces at a time, until each addition has melted and emulsified before adding the next.
Once all the butter has been incorporated, season to taste with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and serve immediately or leave to sit over warm water until you’re ready to serve.
Yields 4 servings.
1 large egg yolk
1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Put the egg yolk, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt in a blender bowl or immersion blender cup. Pulse a couple times to combine.
Put the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and melt in a microwave until just melted. With the blender running, gradually add the melted butter into the egg to make a smooth creamy sauce. If the sauce is very thick, blend in a teaspoon of lukewarm water to loosen it up. Season with the salt and serve immediately or keep warm in a small heat-proof bowl set over hot (but not simmering) water until ready to serve.
Yields 4 servings.
Asparagus on toast with hollandaise sauce
This recipe is adapted from “Rachel’s Irish Family Food” by Rachel Allen, HarperCollins Publishers ($29.95). The delicate, fruity body of Wente Riverbank Riesling 2017 ($12) is balanced by an acidic aroma that fits perfectly to the flavors of this dish.
16-20 asparagus spears
Good pinch of salt
4 slices of brown soda bread or white sour dough bread
Snap off the tough woody end of each asparagus stalk and discard. Fill a large saucepan to a depth of 1½ to 2½ inches with water, add the salt and bring to a boil. Tip in the asparagus and cook in the boiling water for 4-8 minutes, until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain immediately.
While the asparagus is cooking, toast the bread, then spread with the butter and remove the crusts, if you wish. For each person place a piece of toast on a warmed plate, put 4-5 asparagus spears on top and spoon over a little hollandaise sauce.
Yields 4 servings.