Perfect Hollandaise Sauce
By Leslie Bilderback 05/01/2010
Hollandaise is considered, in classic cuisine, one of the five mother sauces (the list also includes sauces béchamel, espagnole, velouté and tomato), not because it is served on Mother’s Day but because, like all mother sauces, it is the base from which dozens of other sauces are created.
Like all great dishes, the origin of Eggs Benedict is hotly contested. Sometime in the 1880s or ’90s, Mrs. Le Grande Benedict, or Mr. Lemuel Benedict, or Commodore E.C. Benedict, dined at the Waldorf Astoria, or Delmonico’s, or on a yacht. He or she requested the dish either as a hangover cure or because they were bored with the usual fare, and the creation ended up on the menu. To make your own, layer a toasted English muffin with Canadian bacon, a poached egg and Hollandaise. Or turn it into Eggs Sardou by layering an artichoke heart with anchovies, creamed spinach, a poached egg and Hollandaise.
1¼ pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold water
A pinch each of kosher salt and white pepper
1. Melt butter slowly, then set aside to cool. Do not stir butter. Let the solids sink to the bottom, and skim the foam off the top. The pure butter fat in the center (called clarified butter) is what you will use for this recipe.
2. Fill the lower portion of a double boiler* with water and bring to a simmer. In the upper portion, before setting it over heat, combine egg yolks, lemon juice and water. Whip vigorously until the color begins to lighten, 1 to 2 minutes. Set over the simmering water and continue whisking until the eggs become thick and creamy. Never stop whisking while heating, or the mixture will congeal into scrambled eggs (for which there is no quick fix).
3. Remove the thickened yolks from the heat, and while whisking, start drizzling the clarified butter into the yolks very slowly. It should take about 3 minutes to incorporate all the butter. (Place the bowl on a wet towel to keep it from spinning as you whisk with one hand and drizzle with the other.) Finish with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
* Create your own double boiler by placing a stainless or ceramic bowl on top of a saucepan. When the bowl is resting on the pan, there should be enough room for a couple of inches of water and an inch of air between the water and the bottom of the bowl.