To me, restaurant brunches are about two things: getting sauced, and hollandaise sauce.
But while hitting the hooch is easy (sometimes a little too easy) wherever you are, moving the hollandaise party to your house can be a tricky endeavor. Why? Well, making any emulsion—and making it stay—is whisk-labor enough. In addition, you're dealing with the dangerous meeting of heat and eggs. And finally, there are as many hollandaise recipes as there are brunch junkies out there. So where do you start?
Since the worst-case-scenario is a broken sauce, let's get that troubleshooting out of the way now. Characterized by graininess, greasiness and dual-coloring, broken hollandaise sauces can almost always be fixed with this little trick. At the first sign of danger in your bowl, grab a clean bowl and add a quick squeeze (a teaspoon or so is fine) of lemon juice to it. Then add a small spoonful of your broken sauce and begin whisking rapidly. Once the sauce smooths itself out, continue adding the rest of the broken batch to the new bowl and whisking away. It'll come right back to life.
Other common woes are too-thick and flavorless sauces. Just dilute the former by whisking in some warm water or cream at the end, and remedy the latter with extra lemon juice, salt or cayenne.
Finally, if you're just too darned lazy to stand over a pot flicking your wrist for 10 minutes, I have seen plenty of recipes for blender-made hollandaise. If this is your preference, just start by blending your eggs and water first on high speed (see the slideshow for some starting measurements), then following with the melted butter (you'll probably only need about half the fat you would if you whipped it by hand, so stop when you hit the consistency you like).
Ready to go? Follow the tips in the slideshow »
Word to the wise: Do it pre-mimosa.
About the author: "Sue Veed" is an editor at a Manhattan-based food magazine and a current culinary student who's trying to learn it all so she can cook it all. She'll take us along for the ride as she makes the journey from home cook to professional. Among things she may never master: looking natural in a chef's hat, and acting demure whenever a pork product hits the table.