Yes, homemade hollandaise sauce is that good!
So how did a home cook known for shortcuts set off to make hollandaise, one of the five sauces of French cuisine? Well, it is the classic sauce for fresh asparagus. Shouldn't any veggie evangelist worth her asparagus at least try, yes?
So I was all prepared to make "real hollandaise" with a double boiler and whisk and about 30 minutes of
I was all prepared to make "blender hollandaise" only to discover the kitchen was plumb out of lemons. Stephen nixed the idea of substituting vinegar for lemon juice (I know, sorry ... bad choice) so I proceeded with the next-best in-house substitute, grapefruit -- good enough, for sure.
A few days later, I made another batch of hollandaise -- all in the name of research, of course -- this time with fresh lemon.
And so now I know -- and you too -- that hollandaise simply must-must-must be made with fresh lemon juice. No shortcuts! You see, hollandaise is really truly only hollandaise when it's bears the stamp of bright fruitiness that is lemon. (Well except, as Stephen suggested afterward, unless you migrate to lime.)
CAUTION #1 When hollandaise is made in a blender, the eggs do not cook. If you are wary of salmonella or raw eggs, this recipe is not for you. That said, my friend Linda tells me that a credible hollandaise can be made with pasteurized eggs.
CAUTION #2 Because of the raw eggs, leftovers should be refrigerated very promptly and used within a day or so.
LEFTOVERS This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of hollandaise. How much we drink in Vegas -- I mean, use on the asparagus -- stays in Vegas. (But really, you'll want only a tablespoon or two per serving of asparagus.) But leftover hollandaise is a plus! It turns a plain omelet into heaven, there are eggs Benedict, of course. Or toss nearly any cooked vegetable with a tablespoon of hollandaise and oooooo, yes. Or substitute hollandaise for butter/mayonnaise in sandwiches. Or top a grilled steak. My favorite so far, however, is just dipping raw asparagus into the chilled hollandaise: heaven. A certain favorite seven-year old also declared this "yummy".
HOW TO REWARM HOLLANDAISE A gentle warming is key, otherwise the egg cooks and the texture becomes more corduroy than satin. I had no luck in the microwave, a double boiler is likely to work. Any ideas, all?
HIGH-FAT BUTTER I haven't tried this yet but my favorite chef suggests using a high-fat European-style butter for hollandaise since there will be fewer of the 'solids'. CLARIFICATION from the Chef, answering Stephen's question in the comments: "Butter is naturally 82% butterfat. But the U.S. government sets the minimum at 80% so many manufacturers add water to their butter; these butters add too much water to hollandaise. So, we can clarify the butter, that is, we can remove the water. But most people find that clarifying butter is a pain. So instead of clarifying, use a butter that is at least 82% butterfat, such as Plugra (made in U.S.) or the Land O' Lakes 82% butter. (Be aware that other specialty butters may or may not have the 82% fat.) In addition, whole butter tastes better since the milk solids, especially when cultured, contribute to flavor. Clarified butter tastes only like fat, although it is my favorite fat."
WHAT'S FUNNY? Now that I've tried the blender hollandaise with such success, I think I might even try the real thing ... stay tuned.
LIVE STRONG: A TASTE of YELLOW
This is my "yellow" contribution to an event hosted by Winos & Foodies of New Zealand. Barbara's a long-time food blogger and lives with cancer. A Taste of Yellow is her way to mark the Lance Armstrong's Foundation's Live Strong Day on May 16th. Read more and make a donation to the foundation. And if you ever wonder about the world-wide community of food blogging, here I am, cooking with asparagus grown in the middle of America, participating in an event hosted in New Zealand, joining cooks from all over the world. THIS is why we blog.
FROM THE ARCHIVES The Recipe Box is filled with asparagus recipes! My three favorite ways to use asparagus are featured in Kitchen Parade columns, Creamy Asparagus Tart, salmon roasted over a bed of asparagus, and this luscious asparagus soup that even kids love!
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ASPARAGUS with BLENDER HOLLANDAISE
Time to table: 20 minutes
1 pound fresh asparagus, preferably with thin stalks that are best for steaming
1 stick (yes, a whole stick, from me!) unsalted butter (this is 8 tablespoons / 4 ounces)
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Maldon here)
Pinch white pepper (traditional recipes also call for a pinch of cayenne)
Put the asparagus steamer on to boil. Wash the asparagus well, rinsing the tips, especially under running water. Snap the spear at its natural breaking point, discard the stem end. Steam til done - actual time will vary with the thickness of the spears and the steamer.
Melt the butter in a small pot til bubbling hot. In the mean time, fill blender with remaining ingredients. Cover and whiz for 30 seconds. Uncover (or through the center hole) and drizzle hot butter very slowly into the whizzing blender, allowing time with each little drop for the butter to absorb into the eggs and emulsify. Serve immediately over asparagus.