Updated: Aug 31
French cooking, and any cooking, has a foundation in the sauces that garnish a dish. Sauces sometimes get a bad image. It's often said they just drown the flavor of bland food. Sure, if we cover everything in brown gravy, that'll be the case. But there is so much more to a well-made sauce.
Sauces help balance a dish and often add a layer of freshness. They are also a mark of a good cook. If you can't prepare and flavor sauces, gaining any skill in preparing traditional or modern dishes will be difficult.
Auguste Escoffier, the father of modern-day cookery, formulated the idea of five mother sauces. Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Sauce Tomat (tomato sauce), and Hollandaise. Espagnole has been seen as dated and isn't used all too often.
This week we start with Hollandaise! Eggs Benedict is, of course, the most notable example of its use. Hollandaise is an example of an egg-emulsified sauce, with about 1/3-2/3rds of it being in its dispersed fat phase. If you've made Béarnaise sauce before, it's similar but different in seasoning. lemon is used for Hollandaise, and Béarnaise uses wine and herbs.
When you make this sauce, it's important to note the type of butter you'll be using. Whole butter contains about 15% water; clarified butter is 100% butterfat. Whole Butter will thin the sauce, and clarified butter will thicken. Because this is an egg-emulsified sauce, how fast/ how much we heat the eggs is crucial. Eggs help thicken the sauce but cook too much, and the eggs will cook and curdle, causing the sauce to separate.
How do we solve the issue of curdled eggs? Simply use a double boiler- a pot filled with water with a bowl atop it for cooking. Another way, and more scientific, is Its PH value. Keep it around 4.5, and the egg molecules will repel each other and unfold before bonding together into the sauce. Since most of us, including myself, don't have PH strips in our kitchens, we use a double boiler and slowly cook the sauce while whisking constantly.
What if you do end up curdling your eggs? Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and add a warm egg yolk and a tablespoon of water. Now, let's say we have extra sauce left over and we pop it in the fridge for later, can we re use it? Yes! The butterfat will have recrystallized so we will need to place the sauce over a double boiler. Once warmed, the butter will form puddles atop the sauce. Add a warm egg yolk and a tablespoon of water and whisk till combined.
And that's Hollandaise and the science behind it; below, we have a beautiful Eggs Benedict recipe highlighting fresh ingredients- perfect for spring or any season.
Yield: 8 Cups
Prep Time: ~35 Minutes Inactive Time: ~5-10 Minutes Total Time: ~40-45 Minutes
1. 3 tbsp Water
2. 2 tbsp Vinegar
3. 2.5 Egg Yolks
4. 250 g Melted Butter
5. Whole Eggs (One per Serving)
6. 1 Leek
9. English Muffins (One per Serving)
10. Thickly Sliced Ham
11. 3 Cups Arugula
12. 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
13. 1 tsp Cream
14. Salt & Pepper
1. Prepare a Bain Marie or Double Boiler by heating a large pot of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place a large metal bowl over the pot. Add 2 tbsp of water, 1 tbsp vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce this by 1/3rd.
2. Turn the heat down to low and remove the bowl to let it cool; once cooled, put the bowl over the pot and add the remaining tbsp of water with the egg yolks. While whisking, continuously slowly add the melted butter a little bit to ensure emulsification.
3. Whisk until the sauce thickens to the desired thickness. Keep in mind that it won’t thicken much more when it cools down slightly. Add a few drops of water to loosen it if needed. Season with salt and pass through a sieve. Keep at a slightly warm temperature.
4. To poach the desired amount of eggs- Heat a large, deep pot of water to a rolling boil. Crack an egg into it and wait for the whites to cook, and a thin film forms over the yolk. You don’t want to cook the yolk.
5. Warm the ham in a pan and season with salt and pepper.
6. Very thinly slice the white part of the leek so it makes rings, and finely chop the basil. Place the ham on your toasted English muffin, top with a sprinkle of basil and the leek. Place the poached egg on top.
7. Finish with the hollandaise sauce and sprinkle with thinly sliced chives.
Light Arugula Salad: Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and cream with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix with the arugula and serve with your Eggs Benedict for a hint of lemon and freshness.
Recipe By: Chef Olson Thewoodenspoonchefs.com
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