Who ever said that making a hollandaise sauce was easy is full of shit. I don’t know anyone that actually said that, but if anyone ever does, I want to be there to tell them to fuck off. I’m exaggerating obviously, but I will caution that rolling out of bed one Saturday morning and deciding to surprise the BF/GF with the genuine article hollandaise, you may be be biting off more than you can chew. I’m not saying don’t learn this sauce. It’s one of the five mother sauces after all, but I’m just saying be prepared and if possible practice getting the yolks the right consistency. It took me three attempts to get this sauce right and I’ve learned there are a few things you really, really need.
Before getting started, be sure you are equipped with two kitchen tools: A whisk (the larger the better) and a relatively deep metal bowl. Contrary to popular belief you do NOT need a double burner (a pot with a cup or two of water in the bottom to indirectly heat your whisking bowl). You can just as easily hold the bowl above the heat and control the heat that way. I choose to use the double burner just cause I’ll typically use the same pot and water to poach the eggs later.
With those tools on hand, a pan on medium heat and get your butter melted/clarified. After the butter has melted enough you’ll notice the oil and the dairy parts of the butter seperate.
Get your egg yolks prepped place the bowl over LOW heat and just start whisking. Don’t stop. Your only job for the next 10 minutes is being sure the pot doesn’t get too hot and whisking. Period. You can whisk in big strokes too, don’t worry about about keeping the yolks in the corner, just be sure to whisk all the same area.
You’ll start to notice a color change from bright yellow to a paler color. This is a good thing. Bear in mind that most hollandaise will break when the butter is added because the yolks weren’t cooked enough so bring it to this point is necessary. If you’re not constantly stirring or your heat is too high you can scramble the yolks and they get chunky and gross.
TIP: Practice just whisking the egg yolks to the right consistency. Getting pale, saucy, smooth yolks that have nice ribbons coming off the whisk? Sweet, you’re ready.
Pale yellow color? The sauce is coming off the whisk in thick, long ribbons? Brilliant, time to add the butter. Clarified butter is what everyone will tell you and that’s the industry standard, but clarifying the butter first isn’t absolutely necessary. In fact, I think the milky chunks of the butter adds richness, but here we’ll just to the old fashioned way.
Adding a little at a time, whisk the butter into the yolks emulsifying the two ingredients into one silky, sexy sauce. One surprise you may not expect is that the yolk/butter mix may become very thick and lose the ribbon texture. Just add a splash or two of warm water to reconstitute the consistency. Just keep whisking. This is a good time to turn up the heat and add more water to your pot to poach the eggs.
Once the butter has been added and combined, add ½ juice of a lemon.
Taste for seasoning, will probably need a pinch of salt and some white pepper if you have it. And of course, cayenne pepper to your preference if you like a little heat.
Poaching is pretty straight forward, but like most basic stuff, there steps worth noting to save yourself a lot of grief. Use the link for a better walkthough. Before you poach an egg it is very useful to have three things:
1) The freshest eggs you can get your hands on. Week old eggs are fine, but the whites are going to break apart and fill the pot water with stringy egg white shit.
2) Vinegar. Vinegar helps the egg whites coagulate more quickly. You only need a couple spoonfuls added to the boiling water. Also be sure to salt the water so the eggs are seasoned.
3) A slotted spoon. Those poached eggs aren’t going to remove themselves. You’ll need a way of draining the water and gently lifting the eggs out without breaking the yolks.
Now stack your English muffin, canadian bacon/smoked salmon/steamed spinach, poached egg and a little hollandaise. You do that one right, and you can save it for the right occasions.