Not Just for the Holidays – Hollandaise Sauce

Just saying the word “hollandaise” rocks the Impress-O-Meter. Only three ingredients (eggs, lemon juice, and butter) can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Hollandaise sauce elevates steamed broccoli and asparagus to new levels. It enhances fish and seafood and is an excellent sauce for steak. Once you master the basic sauce, zhoosh it with a zing of dijon mustard and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Add a little tarragon, chopped onion, a tablespoon of dry white wine, and presto/change-o, you now have Bearnaise sauce. Look at you – the gourmet cook!  

While sauce rates an impress quotient of WOW, the Stress-O-Meter ranks a 3 (a nudge above the Relaxed level). This is not a complicated or challenging recipe (hey, it’s only 3 ingredients!). However, it does require patience. Cranking up the heat to melt the butter faster will turn your sauce into scrambled eggs. (Not appealing!) The recipe also calls for the ability to separate the yolk from the white of the egg. If you’ve never separated the egg whites from the yolks, you’re about to gain a new skill. No worries – like any new skill, you’ll need to find your groove. To guard against mishaps of the yolk breaking and ruining your already separated whites:

  1. Use two sets of bowls.
  2. Break and separate the egg in your “working” bowls.
  3. When the egg is successfully separated, transfer the yolk and the white into your holding bowls.

Yes, it adds to the clean-up, but you don’t risk wasting three eggs because the last yolk broke and ended up in the same bowl. Trust me, it happens to all of us! This also safeguards against stray eggshells messing up the whole batch.  

There are two ways to separate eggs. Both start with a sharp crack on the rim of a bowl to the middle of the egg. The goal is a clean break, not a shattered shell. Hold the egg over your “working” bowl. If you like getting your hands messy, this first method is for you. Crack the egg open into your upturned palm, letting the egg whites slide through your fingers. With just the yolk remaining in your hand, flip it over into another bowl. If there is no yolk in your whites, you have a winner! Transfer the yolk and white into your holding bowls and repeat with your remaining eggs.   

The other method is to gently transfer the yolk back and forth between the eggshell halves, letting the white drip into the bowl below. Be careful so as not to break the egg yolk. Place the yolk in a separate bowl. Cold eggs are easier to separate than room temperature eggs. The yolks are less likely to break if you separate them immediately after removing them from the fridge.

For the hollandaise sauce, it’s the egg yolks that are needed. The whites can be stored in the fridge to use in another recipe. I usually whip a batch of meringue cookies Or, I will add a couple of whole eggs to the whites and make light and airy scrambled eggs or an omelet. Top your scrambled eggs with the hollandaise sauce and enjoy an elegant meal.

Patience doesn’t come easy for most of us, but as they say, “patience is a virtue”. This is true with hollandaise sauce. The good news is that we’re not talking an hour, half-hour, or even 15 minutes. Still, when you’re standing over a cooktop whisking a small saucepan, every minute seems like it takes forever! Just chill-out, it’s just a couple of minutes, and it’s well worth it. 

When the eggs are separated, whisk the yolks and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a small saucepan. When combined, add ¼ cup butter (½ stick). Heat over very low heat, constantly stirring with a whisk, until butter is melted. Add remaining 1/4 cup butter. Continue stirring until butter is melted and sauce is thickened. (Be sure the butter melts slowly to give the eggs time to cook and the sauce to thicken without curdling.) If you screwed up (and, if you’re not patient — it’s easy to do) and the mixture starts to separate, add about 1 tablespoon boiling water and beat vigorously with a whisk until it’s smooth. 

When the sauce has reached the right consistency, remove the pan from the heat, and pour it into a bowl or serving container. If a skin forms before you’re ready to serve, just give the sauce a quick stir. Refrigerate any left-over sauce for later use. I really like this recipe! I’ve been making it for years and am never disappointed. It was born out of experimentation with a variety of versions. I’ve played with changing up the ingredients, and I always go back to my original. I don’t like using uncooked eggs, and that’s another benefit of this sauce – the eggs are cooked. I’ve also tried several blender recipes, I’m not a huge fan. For me, a whisk gets the job done with little effort, and I protect my vital counter space.

Hollandaise sauce is a great way to Impress not Stress!   For the full recipe:

Impress Rating: 10, Stress Rating: 3

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