Hollandaise Sauce is the youngest of the Mother Sauces, the last to be born. Its name means Dutch Sauce, although the origins are strictly French. The earliest documented mention of a Dutch Sauce can be found in early 1573, although the reference was more a remark in passing and lacked any recipe.
By the 19th Century, French sauces had been classified into four categories, and finally a fifth sauce was born. Unlike her sisters, Hollandaise Sauce is not thickened by a roux. Hollandaise Sauce gains its silky thickness from the emulsion of egg yolks and melted butter. Emulsion is the creation of a stable mixture of two compounds that typically don’t play well together. Think oil and just about anything else. As with anything that is created through emulsion, Hollandaise Sauce is delicate and runs the risk of giving in to its natural urges to break apart.
The most common uses for a Hollandaise sauce are serve with asparagus and as a finishing sauce for dishes such as Eggs Benedict. As with all Mother Sauces, Hollandaise Sauce has her share of daughters. The best know daughter of a Hollandaise Sauce is Béarnaise. Hollandaise has some other interesting daughters, including mayonnaise, but that’s a post for another day.
The key to a good Hollandaise Sauce is that the sauce is made last or close to last as possible and served immediately. At its core, it is a blend of butter, egg yolks, lemon juice and a little Dijon Mustard for extra flavor. The mustard isn’t a must but does lend a little golden richness to the finished sauce. A pinch of salt and either ground pepper or cayenne is then added. It’s important to have all the ingredients organized and ready to go. There are the die-hard chefs out there that swear the only way to a true Hollandaise sauce is to have a strong, stead had. Whisk, whisk, whisk until you are ready to drop and then whisk some more. There are those who say skip all that whisking and go straight to the immersion blender instead, whisking the sauce in a mason jar. While I do own an immersion blender, it’s not my favorite hand-held small appliance. Maybe that’s because it is hand-held. For whatever reason, I tend to make a mess with the thing. The last time it saw daylight was when I needed to purée some stewed tomatoes for a pasta sauce. It was just easier to keep the tomatoes in the pot. An even easier way to make Hollandaise Sauce with a lot less mess is to let your trusty blender do the wrist-work for you. Just remember, be it whisking by hand, using an immersion blender or whipping it up in a regular blender, the key to success is to temper the eggs. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a sauce that more closely resembles scrambled egg yolks. Not that I have anything against scrambled egg yolks, but in a sauce uck!
3 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Pinch Cayenne Pepper
½ cup butter, melted
Place egg yolks into a blender. Add mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of pepper. Cover and blend for about 5 seconds.
In a 1-cup glass measuring cup, heat butter in the microwave for about 1 minute, or until completely melted and hot. (The key here is hot).
Set the blender on high-speed. Temper the egg mixture by adding 1 teaspoon of hot butter at a time until about 1 tablespoon has been worked into the eggs, about 15 times.
With the blender still running, slowly stream in the remaining butter. With the constant spinning of the blender blades and the slow cooling of the butter, the sauce should begin to thicken almost immediately. To keep the sauce warm, simply place the blender container in a pan of hot tap water until ready to serve. The sauce can be held up to 30 minutes. Any longer, and refrigeration is necessary. While a reheated Hollandaise sauce will still be delicious, some of the depth of flavor and silky finish will be sacrificed.
Of all her daughters, Béarnaise is the most complex. Unlike the Hollandaise Sauce or many of the other daughter sauces, Béarnaise Sauce is best made without the assistance of a blender. It is a delicate sauce requiring time and tender care to reach its full potential. Whisking the sauce by hand also avoids bruising the tender tarragon leaves.
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh Tarragon Leaves, chopped and divided
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) clarified butter
2 egg yolks
Kosher salt to taste
Splash of lemon juice, optional
Place the vinegar, shallots, black pepper and 1 tablespoon of tarragon leaves into a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and allow mixture to simmer until there are only a few tablespoons of liquid left in the pan, approximately 5 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
While the tarragon mixture cools, make the clarified butter.. Cut butter into 1 tablespoon slices. Gently place in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter melt undisturbed. Allow melted butter to simmer as the water content begins to evaporate and the butter-fat rises to the surface. Using a spoon, carefully remove the butter fat from the butter oil. If a little of the creamy fat manages to get down into the oil, that’s okay. Keep the butter hot.
Fill a small saucepan with about an inch or two of water, and set over medium-high heat to boil. Place the cooled shallot-tarragon mixture into a metal bowl that will fit snuggly over the boiling water. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of warm water into the tarragon mixture. Add egg yolks and whisk to combine.
Turn the heat under the saucepan of water down to its lowest setting. Place the bowl with the egg yolks over the pan. Continue to whisk the yolks until they thicken, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. The yolks should double in volume.
Once the yolks have thickened, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking slowly to combine and emulsify. Remove the bowl from the pan occasionally to keep the egg yolks from overcooking. Do not stop whisking or the sauce may separate.
Once all the butter has been added, remove from heat. Add a splash of lemon juice and the remaining tarragon leaves. If the sauce appears too thick, it can be thinned with a splash of water.
This sauce is excellent over steaks or steamed potatoes.
The sauces that follow are easy variations of the Hollandaise Sauce. They simply add a little something-something to the mix.
1 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
1 Recipe Hollandaise Sauce (above)
½ Teaspoon Fresh Grated Horseradish
Pinch of Thyme
To the basic egg mixture of Hollandaise sauce, add 1 tablespoon Heavy Cream. Continue as you would for a Hollandaise Sauce. Once the sauce in complete, add horseradish and thyme.
This sauce is a wonderful finish to canapés that feature roast beef.
1 Recipe Hollandaise Sauce (above)
1 Tablespoon capers, well rinsed
Make Hollandaise sauce as above. When the sauce is finished, add capers. This is a great alternative to traditional Hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict. This is a beautiful way to change things up when serving delicious Crab Cakes Benedict.
1 Recipe Hollandaise Sauce (above)
¼ Cup Heavy Cream
Whip heavy cream until stiff. Gently fold into the Hollandaise Sauce.
This is simply a Hollandaise sauce made with browned butter. Instead of melting the butter in the microwave, use a small sauce pan over low heat. Continue to let the butter simmer until the color begins to deepen and brown. Use the browned butter instead of the melted butter for the Hollandaise Sauce. This is delicious over roasted carrots.