Great sauces: Hollandaise

Here is a marvellous sauce for purists in this matter. It goes with salmon, asparagus, almost any vegetable, entrées and most fish dishes.

   Now one may ask why I say ‘for purists in this matter’? The reason is that purists state rather firmly that the only true Hollandaise Sauce consists of nothing but unsalted butter, egg yolks and lemon juice. My problem with this is that I find Hollandaise made this way is rather insipid. I reckon Hollandaise should start with a preliminary reduction of some good white wine, as one does in the making of Béarnaise (q.v.). The flavour is so much better. Forget about the lemon, as it disintegrates the sauce too easily, and you will end up shooting yourself because you have used up twenty fresh eggs and still got no Hollandaise.

   In a small sauce pan put 3 tablespoons of white wine and 2 tbsp. of water, plus a blade of mace, 6 peppercorns and a bay leaf. Reduce to a third of the quantity by boiling. Work a good quantity of fresh butter until it is soft. Never try to make any sauce freshly cold from your fridge.

   Cream the yolks of two fresh eggs in a separate small bowl, preferably made of china, and add a pinch of salt. Strain on the reduced white wine so that the blade of mace is left in the strainer. Place over a bain-marie (q.v.) that steams gently, and stir the mixture with a whisk or wooden spatula. Add the rest of the butter in small pieces, stirring constantly. When all the butter (about 4 ounces) has been added, season delicately, and if the sauce is too sharp (because of the white wine) add more butter.

  Hollandaise sauce should be slightly spicy or piquante, and should be served lukewarm, certainly not hot. Remember that the water in the bain-marie should be very hot, but never boiling.

    One is indebted to Prosper Montagné, and to Mme. Saint-Ange, who challenged the purists and made Hollandaise with (reduced) white wine and NOT lemon juice.

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