I know many people buy hollandaise in jars and OK, it’s acceptable. But it’s not true hollandaise. The real thing is easy and quick to make, and is infinitely superior. I’ve seen recipes that faff about with blenders or even food processors, but this is quite unnecessary A couple of small, heavy pans and a whisk are all you need.
A good hollandaise is a perfect blend between the smoothness of butter, the sharpness of lemon, and the velvety consistency of egg yolks. Wonderful with vegetables such as asparagus or artichokes, and with fish. Or, of course, eggs benedict.
about 150 g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
juice of half a lemon
1 tbs water
salt and pepper (white pepper if you have it)
If you are nervous, have ready a large bowl of cold water. Reserve two cubes of butter each about the size of a walnut. Put the rest in a small pan and melt it. Set aside. In a small heavy pan (I use a tiny copper one from Villedieu-les Poêles) whisk the egg yolks for about 30 seconds. Then add the water and about a tablespoon of lemon juice. Put in one of the pieces of cold butter. Place over a very low heat and whisk constantly. Don’t try to hurry. The butter will melt, and after a few minutes the egg yolks will thicken very slightly; as you are whisking you should start to see the bottom of the pan occasionally. Do not overcook; snatch the pan off the heat and plunge the bottom into the bowl of cold water if you see any sign of lumps forming.
As soon as the egg starts to thicken, remove from the heat and whisk in the other piece of cold butter; this will stop it cooking further. Then gently and slowly pour in the melted butter in a thin stream, whisking constantly to stop it separating. Leave behind the white milk solids that have settled in the bottom of the butter pan.
Taste the sauce. You are aiming for a perfect balance between butter, egg, and lemon. You will probably find you need to add a little more lemon juice, but don’t overdo it; it shouldn’t be astringent, just slightly tangy. Then season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
- You can keep the sauce warm for a short while over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally, but it’s really not advisable. It should be lukewarm anyway, not hot. And it only takes a few minutes to make, so there is no good reason to prepare it in advance.
- If you do manage to curdle or split the sauce, you may be able to rescue it by beating another egg yolk in a clean bowl and slowly whisking the sauce into it.