Have I ever mentioned how much I love breakfast? I mostly love it for what it means specifically to me. Coffee means, let’s look out the window – we have nowhere to be. Eggs mean, we can even go back to bed if we want after this. Overall it means things will unfold slowly for a while, and we’ll get around to the day eventually.
Recently on one of these expansive mornings, I decided to tackle the sauce of all sauces at breakfast time – hollandaise. I had never made it, I think because the double boiler scared me off, not to mention how many bad, over-salted versions of it I’ve been exposed to. But, I was dying to recreate a dish I had for brunch at The Front Room, in Portland, ME, and hollandaise was a mandatory requirement.
Looking out the window right now, at breakfast.
Hollandaise is an emulsified butter sauce, thickened with egg yolks, made tart with lemon juice, and deepened with the inclusion of everything from paprika to Worcestershire to white pepper, depending on the recipe. An emulsion is a mixture of liquids that if combined correctly, doesn’t break down into its separate components – so when making hollandaise not only are the ingredients important, but how you incorporate them - basically by constant whisking. It’s scientific, and it may seem like a lot of effort to essentially add egg sauce to your eggs, but it has a texture and flavor all its own, and is 100% worth it.
If you don’t have a double boiler, as any hollandaise recipe will call for, you can use a medium-sized sauce pan with a shallow metal mixing bowl fitted on top – just make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water, and that you can fix the sauce pan’s lid firmly on the whole contraption (inside the bowl is fine).
So what did I do with my hollandaise? First I pan toasted some fresh potato gnocchi in butter until it was puffy, browned and crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. I then wilted spinach in olive oil with a touch of chicken stock, and combined that with torn chunks of crisp bacon. On top of the spinach, bacon and toasted gnocchi went two perfectly yolky sunny side up eggs (you can do poached too, I was feeding firmer-egg-lovers that morning) and then finally, the hollandaise, which was smooth and distinctive, with a citrus kick that brought the whole dish together. Sigh.
Basic Hollandaise Sauce
adapted from Allrecipes.com
4 egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (mine was really lemony, so you might want to try adjusting the lemon juice and cider vinegar ratios, if you want it less so)
1 pinch ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fill the bottom of a double boiler with a couple of inches of water. Make sure the water does not touch the top pan (or metal bowl, as it were). Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of water.
Add melted butter to egg yolk mixture 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly (to do this successfully, think about your setup at the stove beforehand, and make sure you have a cup of hot water and a spoon within reaching distance, for the next step).
If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat. Place a lid on the pan to keep sauce warm until ready to serve. Makes enough for 4-6 breakfast portions.
One year ago: Anadama Bread
One year ago: Anadama Bread