Monday, April 30, 2007

Hollandaise Sauce

Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater

"We are talking heaven here." Nigel Slater

Eggs Not Quite Benedict

If you're not familiar with Nigel Slater, you should be. Now that his newest book The Kitchen Diaries:A Year in the Kitchen With Nigel Slater has received such good press in America, more and more people on this side of the pond are finding out about him. The book that this recipe comes from, Appetite, is a one-of-a-kind book. It's about how to satisfy your cravings without slavishly following recipes. It is indeed about satisfying your own appetite. It's a wonderful book to have - to cook from or just to read.

This sauce, which is season-appropriate now as spring asparagus is crying out for it, is truly glorious even if it does seem like the scariest one to make. 
Approach this task with infinite patience and an absence of trepidation. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. You will be well rewarded once you have mastered this sauce. The real key is to heat it gently while constantly whisking and not letting it get too hot. 

Nigel says you will need a round-bottomed, heatproof bowl and a saucepan for it to sit snugly on, as well as a plump balloon whisk; however, I use a porcelain double boiler insert made for an All-Clad 2-quart saucepan and a medium size flat whisk, which I find easily gets into the corner of the insert, which is not rounded. I think the whisk would work well in a round-bottomed bowl just as well because its easy to control

It is easier to separate eggs while they are cold; best to whisk egg whites warm, although this is advice for another day.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 extra-large eggs 
227g unsalted butter (2 sticks)  )
Half a lemon (maybe a little less if it's really juicy)

Separate eggs yolks from whites. Put the the yolks into a heatproof bowl. You can use a metal bowl or glass bowl.

Fill a saucepan with water halfway up, and put it over a moderate heat. Sit the bowl with the yolks in it on top of the saucepan, making sure it doesn't rock around and doesn't touch the water, then add a small splash of water to the eggs, and stir gently for a few seconds.

Cut the butter into twelve pieces. Add four pieces of butter to the egg yolks, and whisk steadily until the egg yolks have taken up all if that butter. Slowly whisk in the rest of the butter. 

Still whisking, squeeze in the lemon juice. The color should be a lovely light yellow. Add a little salt. 
Nigel Slater calls for white pepper, but I don't use pepper at all; your call. 

Remove the saucepan from the heat.

The sauce will keep warm over the water for half an hour or so, but whisk it occasionally. This is the point at which it may curdle. No one is immune. But as Nigel Slater says, "It is worth the sweat."

Nigel says that if the sauce does break, throwing an ice cube in and whisking like crazy will work nine out of ten times, but I have never had the sauce break following his recipe.

This can be made in advance and kept warm in a Thermos, but if you do that, you will need to whisk it before plating.

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