Hollandaise, despite its name, really isn’t from Holland. And Sauce Espagnole isn’t from from Spain. And yet, they’re both considered two of the four Mother Sauces in French cuisine, whereas Sauce Francaise is not. So the French invented all three and named the most important ones after other countries.
Actually, charity had very little to do with it. Unlike Espagnole, whose etymology fails to reasonably explain why it is named after Spain, Sauce Hollandaise was at least invented to mimic a sauce from the Netherlands. The French eventually made it their own, and turned it into an almost-indispensable aspect of their cuisine.
Like many components of French cuisine, Hollandaise does have a reputation for difficulty, primarily because it involves warming egg yolks either over direct heat (for the brave) or indirect heat, such as a double boiler. Whisking is involved; so much whisking. Sweat is ensured.
Or, at least, that used to be the case.
A popular approach to making Hollandaise today is with a blender and hot butter, thereby using the butter to heat the egg yolks without curdling them. The difference in flavor is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent.
Hollandaise is most commonly associated with the classic poached-egg dish Eggs Benedict, but it and its variations can complement just about any type of food, be it vegeteables such as asparagus, beets, broccoli or potatoes, shellfish, and even chicken. Sauce Bearnaise, a variant of Hollandaise, is a classic complement to steak.
Ingredients, For about 1 cup:
Any acids, fats, or seasonings can be interchanged with others, though it will not remain a traditional hollandaise, unless you are adding white vinegar instead of lemon, which is how hollandaise was originally documented in the 17th century
- 3 Egg Yolks, large and at room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more later as needed (can interchange acids)
- 7 Ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed (can interchange fats)
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper (can interchange seasonings)
There is a more difficult and traditional way to prepare hollandaise, if you prefer, and that’s to use a whisk and do this all by hand. If you typically prefer doing things in a more difficult fashion, then we recommend you have a double boiler handy as well as a copy of Escoffier. In our eyes, neither way yields a particularly inferior result, so we’re going to use the blender and save the work .
Add the egg yolks and lemon juice to the blender and pulse for two seconds.
In a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat. When it it begins to foam, start the blender and slowly pour the butter into the blender in a slow stream, almost droplets, attempting to avoid pouring in the solids that have separated from the fat (they’ll be at the bottom of the pan; don’t worry if some make it through).
After the butter is incorporated, season with salt and pepper, or more lemon juice, if you prefer (remember that added lemon juice will affect the texture).
Hollandaise can be kept warm, but doesn’t respond well to reheating. Serve immediately, if possible.