For those who may not be aware, March is a big month for sauces. In fact, March is National Sauce Month. And what better to do during National Sauce Month than to learn how to make a sauce? So why not make a nice Hollandaise Sauce -- that golden covering that so sets off an entree with its buttery, tangy flavor -- for a fish dish or for asparagus? You could even make Eggs or Oysters Benedict, both of which require Hollandaise.
As how the Hollandaise Sauce came about, it seems to have been created in northern France in the Normandy region sometime around the late 16th century. According to Linda Stradley at What's Cooking America, it was originally called Sauce Isigny, named after a French town famed for its butter. But during World War I, butter production in France came to a standstill and butter was imported from nearby Holland. The sauce's name was altered to reflect the source of the butter, thus Hollandaise, or "from Holland," Sauce was christened and the name stuck.
Now, it is easy to be put off by Hollandaise Sauce simply because you've seen a few television chefs talk about it as an art form as well as a food. And although it is true that getting the sauce done correctly might take a few practice runs, it really isn't all that difficult. In fact, making a Hollandaise Sauce is fairly simple.
"Easiest Ever" Hollandaise Sauce
(from Sunkist Growers Inc. via Food.com)
1/2 cup Butter or 1/2 cup Margarine
1/2 Lemon (juice of = 1-1/2 tablespoons)
1/8 tsp Salt
1 dash White Pepper
3 Egg yolks
Bring butter to room temperature (cut into separate pieces).
In a double boiler, combine egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add a piece of butter.
Stir mixture steadily with wooden spoon or wire whisk.
After butter melts and sauce starts to thicken, add remaining butter. Stir constantly until butter is melted. Continue cooking. Sauce will thicken (after about 2 more minutes). Then immediately remove from heat source.
A variation on the above recipe is offered by Chef Tyler Florence of The Food Network. It is a bit spicier.
Tyler Florence's Hollandaise Sauce
4 Egg yolks
1 Tsp Lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1/2 cup Butter (unsalted, melted), or 1 stick
Basically, Florence's set of instructions are nearly the same, but a little more detailed. For instance, he suggests you whisk the lemon juice and egg yolks vigorously, producing a mixture that doubles in volume to the original mix. (He also suggests that if you don't have a double boiler, you can improvise by starting off your mixture in a stainless steel bowl.) Place bowl of mixture over a saucepan of boiling water, careful not to allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk, but he cautions to be mindful that the mixture not get too hot because too much heat causes the eggs to scramble (not the consistency you want at all). Drizzle in the melted butter and continue whisking until mixture doubles in volume. Remove from heat and whisk in cayenne and salt. (Helpful hint: If using for another recipe, such as Florence's Eggs Benedict, cover to keep warm, but if sauce thickens too much, add a few drops of warm water and whisk.)
See? Now, how easy was that? And now you know how to make Hollandaise Sauce. And you can play with the pepper additive in the Hollandaise as well, replacing it with your favorite type (such as chipotle). Add a touch of basil or dill, if you like.
Sauces are great to add a little color or contrast to a dish. Hollandaise Sauce is a light lemony, buttery sauce that goes well with salmon and halibut, potatoes and chicken, broccoli and... well, the list goes on and on. Make yourself a batch for National Sauce Month. Pour a layer over some crab. Bon Apetit!
(photo credit: Elya, Creative Commons)