Taking another step on the trail of French mother sauces, I tried my hand at Hollandaise. The emulsion of egg yolks and butter possibly originated as early as the 17th century, when it was brought to France by the Huguenots. Later it became known as "Sauce Isigny" after the northern coastal French town famous for their butter.
After doing some background research on procedures and recipes, my head was swimming—clarified vs. regular butter, saucepan vs. double broiler, lemon juice or not, and so much more. Oh, and Anthony Bourdain's blunt statement in Les Halles Cookbook that novices should expect failure didn't help.
Finally, I just went for it.
While I came out with an extremely tired arm—I wanted to go classic to start, but next time I'll probably turn to the blender—I also had an excellent sauce that didn't seem like it should be beyond anybody.
As long as the eggs are kept moving constantly over a low, gentle heat and the butter is added slowly to create a stable emulsion, this creamy, rich, and tangy sauce should come out every time, ready to top Eggs Benedict or beautifully dress a plate of asparagus.
- 3 egg yolks
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Fill a medium saucepan with 1-inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low.
Place egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until they lighten in color, about 1 minute.
Place bowl with eggs over saucepan with simmering water and whisk constantly until thickened and doubled volume, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove bowl from from saucepan with water and whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk in lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. Use immediately or keep warm, covered, over double broiler over very low heat for up to 30 minutes.