Seared Scallops with Beurre Blanc and Parsnip Puree

Food Blog November 2014-0893It will come as no surprise to you that I am late with this post. I mean, here it is Monday and it’s up and all that, but a quick check of the calendar belies my appearance of timeliness. See, it’s December. It’s December and this is a sauce recipe I owe you from last month. By my twisted, grasping-for-an-apology way of thinking, though, I ate it in November… so that totally counts, right?

Food Blog November 2014-0872This time around, we’re back to butter. There are a lot of butter based sauces, friends. A lot. This one, a beurre blanc, is a sauce made by reducing white wine with aromatics and sometimes a bit of lemon juice or vinegar, then whisking in an unbelievable amount of butter until the sauce turns into this rich, fluffy, thick, pale yellow ambrosia that belongs draped over every kind of substance imaginable.

Food Blog November 2014-0875Food Blog November 2014-0879Most of these sauces have dubious origin stories. Who wouldn’t want to be responsible for a well-loved buttery emulsion as appropriate to green beans as to seared fish? Cooking lore holds, however, that beurre blanc was created by accident – an unintentional simplification of béarnaise sauce that caught on and became beloved. Julia Child writes about it with the affection you might expect for a sauce that is, in her words, essentially “warm flavored butter.”

Food Blog November 2014-0880Food Blog November 2014-0881This is not Julia Child’s recipe. For ease, and for clarity, I went with Alton Brown’s. Mine is a slight adaptation – I halved the recipe, and I didn’t have the traditional shallot so I simply omitted it. Alton’s sauce uses lemon juice instead of white wine vinegar, which suggests it was meant to go with fish or seafood, and this decided my pairings for me. Lemon and butter sauce? Pass the scallops.

Food Blog November 2014-0870The silkiness of this sauce is perfect with shellfish. I can imagine dipping lush hunks of lobster into it. I can imagine a drizzle over soft-shell crab. I would be more than satisfied with a pool underneath a piece of halibut or cod. But scallops won the day for me. These perfect little cylinders, meaty and mild and almost sweet, develop a perfect crust when you pat them dry, season them aggressively, and sear them golden-brown on top and bottom. When you douse them with sauce, or float them in a puddle of it, the buttery smoothness somehow elevates them even more.

Food Blog November 2014-0882Because I was eating alone, I decided to play with plating a bit more than usual. As I see it, there are many ways to serve this dinner. I tried two options. First, and a bit more everyday, is a lovely heap of parsnip puree, a few scallops nestled atop it, and a small pile of steamed slender green beans alongside. A healthy drizzle of sauce, and you are ready to serve.

Food Blog November 2014-0883Food Blog November 2014-0884To amp up the presentation though, I grabbed a long rectangular dish. A few small bundles of green beans at intervals along the plate, small mounds of puree between them, and a tender scallop balanced on each spoonful of puree. Sauce can be applied to the top of each scallop, or poured around the edges of the plate just before serving.

Food Blog November 2014-0893

Seared Scallops with Beurre Blanc and Parsnip Puree
Serves 2

For the parsnip puree:

3-4 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chives, finely minced
For the beurre blanc:
4 ounces dry white wine
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ tablespoon heavy cream
6 tablespoons cold, cubed butter
salt to taste
For the scallops:
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to sprinkle
12 large sea scallops, at room temperature

 

  • Place the milk, garlic cloves, and parsnip chunks into a medium pot over medium heat. The moment the milk begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the parsnips are tender, 10-12 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the butter until melted.
  • Blend until very smooth using an immersion blender, a regular blender, or a food processor. Just before serving, fold in the chives.
  • While the milk for the parsnips is heating up, make the beurre blanc.
  • In a small pot, heat the wine and lemon juice to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the liquid to a bare tablespoon.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add the half tablespoon of cream, which will help stabilize the mixture.
  • As soon as the liquid begins to bubble again, turn the heat down as low as it will go and begin adding the butter, one cube at a time, whisking until completely integrated into the liquid before adding the next cube.
  • Continue adding the butter, whisking constantly, until it is all integrated. Turn off the heat and continue whisking until the sauce is fully emulsified and has become a fluffy, pale yellow puddle slightly thicker than melted ice cream.
  • Stow the finished sauce in a thermos to stay warm while you cook the scallops.
  • Unwrap your scallops and pat them dry with a paper towel. If they are wet, they will not sear well. Sprinkle both sides of each scallop with salt and pepper.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When it is shimmering in the pan, carefully add the scallops in a single layer, taking care not to let them touch one another. This seems fussy, but it is essential for getting a good sear.
  • Once you have placed each scallop, don’t touch them for 2 full minutes. Then, carefully lift one and check the bottom – it should have a deep bronzed crust. If this is the case, flip over each scallop and cook another 2 minutes. If it isn’t deeply bronzed yet, let it cook another 30 seconds before checking again.
  • When the scallops are cooked, they should feel slightly springy but resistant, like a firm mattress. Ideally, they should be the palest, palest pink in the center as in my photo above – they will continue to cook while you plate the rest of the meal.
  • To serve, arrange as desired with scallops atop or beside the parsnip puree, and the beurre blanc sauce drizzle over the top or puddled on the side. Accompany the dish with steamed green beans or pencil asparagus, if desired.

Creme Anglaise

Food blog June 2014-3984Everyone starts off in the kitchen somewhere, whether it’s spreading peanut butter thickly onto a piece of barely toasted bread, or stirring spaghetti tentatively with a long-handled wooden spoon and watching it relax into the water, or even scrambling eggs because the planned entrée for that night looks “weird.” In my case, I started with dessert. Cookies and cakes were the first things I “helped” make, which probably explains why I’ve developed such a sweet tooth over the years. Mom would let me stir batter, pour pre-measured cups of sugar, taste a beater. She was there while I jammed my thumbs into an egg trying to crack it, while I spilled powdery fluffs of flour onto the counter and sometimes the floor. She was there, though not watching, when I had my first lesson in ingredient deception: my first taste of cinnamon. A few brown grains on the counter, a small, damp index fingertip, and the sourest face dipping away from the countertop. Vanilla extract was the same way. Each time, I’m sure Mom turned and saw, and probably tried not to laugh, as I learned that in dessert as in so many things, a dose of sugar makes things better.

Food blog June 2014-3981It seemed only fitting, then, when I embarked on the dessert selection of my sauce project, that Mom should be there. Together, in my bright, narrow kitchen, we talked and laughed and spilled and fumbled our way through crème anglaise.

Food blog June 2014-3959Crème anglaise is essentially an all-purpose dessert sauce, and provides a base for so many lovely simple sweets. Egg yolks, cream, sugar, and some vanilla for flavor, cooked gently but whisked fervently, and you have a beautiful, rich sauce that lovingly coats the back of a spoon. Cooled, run through an ice cream machine, and shoved impatiently into a freezer, you’d have vanilla ice cream. A few more yolks and a long, slow bake in the oven, and you’d have crème brulee. Some cornstarch to thicken during the cooking process? Pastry cream. But left liquid and chilled, it makes a beautiful summer treat poured in decadent quantities over a bowl of glistening berries. And if you want to build the whole thing atop a slice of cake, well who am I to stop you? Since Mom and I are both grown-ups now, we added a whisper of bourbon to our creation, for a floral warmth and slightly more complex flavor.

Food blog June 2014-3969I think the hardest thing about crème anglaise is waiting for it to cool so you can eat it. But the second hardest thing, which is not much of a challenge at all, is separating the eggs. This isn’t as dicey a prospect as separating the whites for a meringue or angel food cake, because a bit of white slopped in with the yolks does no damage at all. It’s just that we are after the glossy, dense fat of the yolk here, and so the light liquidy quality of the whites is better saved for something else.

Food blog June 2014-3964Food blog June 2014-3965Food blog June 2014-3966I prefer to separate my eggs by plopping the yolk back and forth between the halves of shell, letting the white drip down directly into the open mouth of a zip-top freezer bag. Once most of the white has detangled itself, I add the yolk to my work bowl and move on. You can also crack the egg directly into your hand and let the white ooze down through your fingers, while the yolk stays plump and golden in your palm, but the shell method works better for me. When all the whites are contained in the baggie, I write the number and the date on the outside and freeze it for later use.

Food blog June 2014-3973Food blog June 2014-3970Eggs managed, it’s a simple prospect of whisking in some sugar with the yolks, heating milk and cream together, adding the warm dairy to the thick, sweetened yolks, and cooking the whole thing to a thickness like, well, melted ice cream, since that’s basically what it is. Incorporate flavorings, strain the mixture to ensure a nicely textured final product, and chill until ready to use.

Food blog June 2014-3980With berry season upon us, I see no better motivation to make this sauce. Maybe for your mom. She’ll probably love it.

Food blog June 2014-3986

Food blog June 2014-3987Crème Anglaise
Barely adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio
Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup milk
3 egg yolks (save the whites for another treat)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)

 

  • First, prepare an ice bath by filling a large mixing bowl with water and ice cubes. Set another bowl inside, so it rests in the bath but is in no danger of getting water inside.
  • In a small pot, warm the milk and cream together to a bare simmer.
  • While the dairy warms, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl until quite thick. You want the sugar to be well incorporated to make the integration with the liquid easier.
  • When the milk and cream are just simmering, slowly – and I mean slowly! – pour them into the yolk and sugar mixture, whisking the whole time. If you pour slowly and whisk assiduously, you will end up with a smooth, thick mixture. If you don’t, you will end up with scrambled egg yolks.
  • Pour your smooth sauce back into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 2-5 minutes, until the sauce is thick that when you dip in the back of a spoon and draw a line through the coat of sauce with your finger, the line remains clean.
  • Add the vanilla and bourbon, stir, and remove from heat.
  • Pour the sauce from the pot through a strainer and into the bowl you’ve rested in the ice bath. Whisk or stir as it cools to room temperature, then liberate from the ice bath and refrigerate until cold. Serve however you wish. I recommend a mixture of fresh berries, with or without a slice of moist cake, but a plain old spoon and no interruptions would be just fine too.

Homemade Mayonnaise and Toasted Potato Salad

Food Blog May 2014-3905My interests for some time have been food and bodies. Academically, as I’ve noted on my About page, I studied bodies. I’m interested in the way we represent them in literature, and increasingly, the way we represent them in our own self-presentation. This makes me a better teacher, I think, because it keeps me aware of my students as people – as living, breathing bodies who think and act and speak not always according to logic or reason, but to their status as physical beings ruled by whims and appetites. It also makes me, I hope, a better human being, since I recognize what this kind of embodiment means for my fellow beings.
Food Blog May 2014-3895Outside of academics, I love food (I’m sure you would never have guessed this). This pair of interests makes total sense to me. Bodies, after all, require food. It fuels us, it nurtures us, and it affords us pleasure of many sorts. The pleasure of a full belly. The pleasure of a silky custard against the tongue, or a thick hunk of steak between the teeth, dissolving into creamy fat at the edges.
Food Blog May 2014-3886All too often, though, our associations between food and bodies are negative. We use the slippery jiggle of jelly to describe a stomach or a bottom that we deem too ample or not sufficiently firm. Our brains are “fried” or “scrambled” when we feel tired or off our game. “Muffin top” is a newer construction thanks to the popularity of tight and midriff-baring wardrobes (deemed, interestingly enough, one of the most creative words of 2005 by the American Dialect Society). And of course there is the classic complaint of “cottage cheese thighs.”
Food Blog May 2014-3891I want to propose a new one, to break this concentration on the negative textures and attributes we give our bodies, and refocus attention instead on their strength and abilities: mayonnaise arms.
Food Blog May 2014-3889At first glance, this sounds just as negative as the others. The rich fatty consistency of mayonnaise calls to mind a sagging bicep rife with cellulite. But I’m not talking about a visual comparison. I’m talking cause and effect. Though she certainly has a more traditional exercise routine, after my weekend of making mayonnaise from scratch, you could tell me First Lady Michelle Obama’s amazing arms were forged whipping her own condiments and I wouldn’t be at all surprised. The sustained whisking mayonnaise requires, pulling egg yolk and oil together into a magical, fluffy, silky, creamy emulsion, has the potential to produce incredible toned limbs (and then sit down to a perfectly dressed BLT. Just saying).
Food Blog May 2014-3892This is my fifth installment in 2014’s Project Sauce,* and for the first time I have to admit I was quite nervous. Even the fussiness of last month’s hollandaise didn’t throw me off all that much, since I’d made it before. But the idea of whisking a raw egg yolk and some oil into a fluffy spread had me feeling tentative. First of all, despite understanding a bit about the power of emulsions, it seemed so unlikely those humble ingredients could even approximate something like the jar of Hellman’s hanging out on my fridge door. Secondly, even though I knew my chances of getting salmonella from my homemade spread were quite low, I still felt a little uncomfortable about what seemed like dangerous cooking.
Food Blog May 2014-3893However, there’s nothing like the internet for at once increasing and assuaging fears. Amongst articles about salmonella poisoning babies and questions about whether it’s safe to eat macaroni salad that has sat around on a picnic table for hours, I found a few mayonnaise recipes that suggested heating the egg yolk gently to 150F, at which temperature the bacteria that causes salmonella bites the dust. This is also the temperature where egg proteins solidify, but the addition of acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar raises the coagulation temperature, so you still maintain a liquid yolk even while reducing the already minimal chances of food-borne illness. Other cautious suggestions offered using pasteurized eggs (this heating process is basically pasteurizing them), or washing the shell carefully before cracking (since the shell itself is where bacteria like to hang out). This gentle heating sounded like a reasonable suggestion to me, so using a combination of recipes and procedures (privileging Michael Ruhlman’s suggestions in Ratio, to which I find myself returning again and again), I whisked and measured and heated and cooled and whisked and whisked and whisked and ended up with a bowl of fluffy, creamy, pillowy spread that looked almost identical to the commercially produced stuff I’ve been buying and greedily applying to fried egg sandwiches for years! Several times, in between shaking out my arms as they screamed at the endless whisking, I said aloud, stunned, “It looks like mayonnaise! It actually looks like mayonnaise!” This was, apparently, one of those things I never really conceived of making myself.
Food Blog May 2014-3894So. Mayonnaise is possible. Though like the other sauces I’ve created, it needs a vehicle for consumption. As Ruhlman notes in a defense of fat-based sauces, “you wouldn’t want to eat a bowl of vinaigrette or a cup of mayonnaise or a stick of butter” (165). I laughed – in my deepest, guiltiest heart of hearts a cup of mayonnaise sounds attractive, though probably not without some kind of starch or vegetation to cut the thickness – but he’s right. It’s not a lone ranger.
Food Blog May 2014-3897With Memorial Day upon us and summer leaping ever closer, then, I went to one of my favorites: potato salad. In my version, fingerling potatoes are boiled and then crushed and lightly toasted in olive oil, so their skins get slightly crisp and they break apart gently when mixed with the other ingredients. Hard boiled eggs, capers, dill, garlic, and a generous scattering of green onions provide the colors and flavors for that beautiful blank canvas of potato and mayonnaise to play with. And I can’t resist a little squeeze of mustard. Creamy. Toasty. Fluffy. Perfect.
Food Blog May 2014-3905As summer gets ever closer, instead of complaining about our beer bellies or muffin tops or cottage cheese thighs, I vote we create, and celebrate, mayonnaise arms instead!

*Yes, mayonnaise is considered a sauce, even though the thick, creamy spread we most commonly envision when we hear the term is used primarily as a condiment. But think aioli: basically a thin mayo with garlic added. Even hollandaise is similar to a thin mayo, with the egg yolk heated and emulsified with butter rather than oil. In perhaps my favorite application, Belgian in inspiration, mayonnaise is used to sauce french fries, and what a glorious sauce it then becomes…

Homemade Mayonnaise
Makes a scant cup
Note: this is a quite lemony mayonnaise. If you aren’t fond of that flavor or want to dial back the citrus, use just one teaspoon of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of water instead. Alternately, you can use a vinegar of your choosing to create your preferred flavor of acidity.
Note #2: I strongly recommend you get everything ready for this before you begin the process. I’m talking various bowls, ice bath, oil measured, all that. You’ll be happier for it, I promise.
Note #3: Though this mayonnaise stores just fine in the fridge for a week, it may separate a bit as it chills. Vigorous whisking at room temperature, and in a dire case another dribble of water or squeeze of mustard feverishly incorporated, should bring things back together.
1 large egg yolk (save the white for a meringue or angel food cake or fluffy waffles)
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup (8 ounces) vegetable oil
  • Before you begin, start about 2 inches of water heating in a medium pot. You want to bring this to a bare simmer. While it heats up, fill a large bowl with ice and water and set it in the sink. We are heating the egg yolk in the unlikely event it is harboring bacteria, but mayonnaise is a “cold” sauce, so we will need to cool the yolk quickly once it has reached the appropriate temperature.
  • In a medium, heat resistant mixing bowl (I used glass), whisk together the egg yolk, water, and lemon juice (or vinegar, if you’re using that instead). Set the bowl carefully over the pot of simmering or near-simmering water, being careful not to let the water come to a boil or to touch the bottom of the bowl.
  • Whisk the egg yolk mixture constantly but slowly over the pot until the yolk registers at 150F on a kitchen thermometer, about 4-5 minutes. You don’t need to whisk with particular determination here – we are not looking to change the consistency as we would with a hollandaise; just to keep it moving so it doesn’t scramble.
  • At just under 150F, the yolk will thicken a tiny bit. At first when this happened I thought the whole thing was ruined. It’s not. Don’t worry. The addition of the acid and water will prevent the protein in the yolk from fully coagulating.
  • As soon as you hit 150F, remove the bowl from the heat and carefully float it in the ice bath, continuing to whisk constantly until the yolk mixture cools to room temperature, and taking care not to let any ice water into the mix. You don’t want it to be cold – cold ingredients are reluctant to emulsify (think of bottled salad dressing and the way it separates). Just room temp will do nicely.
  • Once the yolk has cooled, take the bowl out of its ice bath and set it on a counter, wrapping a twisted kitchen towel around the base of the bowl to prevent spinning.
  • Now, add the salt, and begin to drizzle in the oil slowly. You want to add just a few teaspoons at a time, whisking like a madman through the whole process. At first you’ll just have a greasy mess, but slowly as you add more oil, the mixture will get pale and fluffy and creamy, and suddenly will start to look suspiciously like, well, mayonnaise.
  • Continue to drizzle the oil in slowly, whisking the whole time. If your arm gets tired, switch to the other one! If the mixture suddenly starts to look extra shiny or like it might separate, stop adding the oil and whisk extra hard for a minute or two. It should come back together.
  • Once your mayonnaise is fluffy and creamy and stable, taste for salt (this is much, MUCH less salty than a commercial mayo), and use immediately, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
Toasted potato salad with homemade mayonnaise
Serves 1 generously, or 2 as a modest side
10 baby potatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced on a bias
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup homemade mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are fork tender (times will vary depending on the size of your potatoes. Check them after the water has been boiling for 6 minutes, then determine for yourself). When they are done, drain them, remove to a flat surface, and use a potato masher or the back of a fork to lightly crush them. You are looking to split their skins and just flatten them a little bit.
  • In the same (now empty) pot, heat the 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat until they slick and shimmer around the pan. Add the crushed potatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes, flipping them over halfway through to reveal golden brown toasted bottoms. When both sides are toasty, remove from heat and let cool.
  • While the potatoes cook, prep the other ingredients, tossing the chopped eggs, green onions, capers, and dill into a medium bowl.
  • To prepare the garlic, smash the clove with the side of a large knife, and remove the peel. Then chop the garlic into a fine dice. Sprinkle the ¼ teaspoon coarse salt over the garlic, and make it into a paste by firmly dragging the flat of the knife across it. The abrasive salt crystals will break down the garlic, making it easier to mix into your salad evenly. Add the pasted garlic and mustard to the bowl.
  • When the potatoes have cooled a bit, add them to the other ingredients, toss together, and add the mayonnaise. Mix gently to incorporate, taste for seasonings, and add black pepper to your liking. If you wish, add additional salt, mustard, or mayonnaise to suit your palate.
    Eat immediately, or chill, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Project Sauce: Hollandaise

I’m reasonably certain that most people, when faced with the prospect of serving homemade hollandaise sauce, are immediately overcome with the desire to crawl underneath a table somewhere and stay there, quivering, until their guests agree to go out for brunch.
Food Blog April 2014-3593Hollandaise has a reputation for being fussy – a kind of yolk-based response to the temperamental touchiness a soufflé evokes for the whites crowd. Words like “break” and “emulsify” and “scramble” haunt your vision, and the pale lemon-yellow fluffiness cloaking a restaurant-made eggs benedict feels like an impossibility.
Food Blog April 2014-3584I started this project with flour-thickened sauces almost by accident. Wanting familiarity, I didn’t realize my first three sauces, the béchamel, the mornay, and the velouté, were fairly close cousins: fat, flour, liquid. No huge recipes for disaster there, aside from the possibility of clumping. But this second trimester, the egg exploration, is a little more complex. Fat comes from multiple sources now, and the egg yolks provide the protein and coagulation as well as some measure of fat. Balancing water, and acid, and dribbling in the butter just so, feels like a major project. But so long as you are in possession of arm muscles, just a little bit organized, and not in a huge rush, and, for all that is holy, not performing this for the first time in front of company, you are probably going to be okay.
Food Blog April 2014-3585I used an approximation of Ruhlman’s Ratio recipe for this. Almost more useful than the recipe, though, was his advice: “Do not be afraid of its breaking. Sauces can sense fear and will use it to their mischievous advantage. I have broken many sauces and am still a happy, productive member of society and an advocate of the emulsified butter sauces. If you make them, you can and will break them” (187-88).
Food Blog April 2014-3586An emulsified sauce, of which hollandaise is just one example, means a sauce that is thickened – held together, if you will – by a tenuous relationship. Think salad dressing. Remember those bottles from childhood, packed in on the door of the fridge? Remember how, during the week in between salad courses, they would slowly blurp into separate layers – oil on vinegar on water? An emulsion is when those disparate layers, unfriendly, incompatible, are coaxed together into a homogenous mix. Vinaigrette is an emulsion – perhaps one of the simplest. Fat, acid, harmonious.
Food Blog April 2014-3578Because emulsions can be unstable – leave that vinaigrette too long and you end up with a layer of oil and a layer of vinegar – they need to be treated with some care. A “broken” sauce is when the butter, added too quickly, upsets the mix and causes the fat and the water in the sauce to separate. This is the deep dread of homemade hollandaise. But I’m a survivor now. It can be done.
Food Blog April 2014-3577You would think, as would most reasonable people, that making hollandaise would be daunting enough, and I would choose some sensible preparation to share with you like… steamed asparagus.
Hah.
Hahahahahaha.
I went with eggs benedict.
I’ve never poached an egg before.
Food Blog April 2014-3580As it turns out, no single one of the components of eggs benedict is, so long as you are relaxed and paying attention, particularly tricky. The issue is having everything ready to put together all at once. Fortunately, poached eggs, once they are poached, are forgiving. Doubly fortunately, hollandaise is one of those blessed creations that actually tastes better warm than it does hot. This means, if you’re keeping score, that if it cools off a touch while you are applying that last toaster session to your English muffins, that all is not lost.
Food Blog April 2014-3592This recipe will make enough hollandaise for two plates of eggs benedict. Since I was only serving me (albeit an unreasonably greedy me), I draped it across two eggs and had enough for a dish of the aforementioned steamed asparagus as well. That afternoon was a blur of food coma, but let me tell you, I’d do it again.
Food Blog April 2014-3593Note: if you are making eggs benedict as your vehicle for this sauce, my recommendation is to poach the eggs first (Deb has a good step-by-step recipe which I used pretty much verbatim), then set them aside in a bowl while you make the hollandaise. When the hollandaise is ready and you’ve pulled it off of the pot of water, pop the English muffin into the toaster and slip the poached eggs into the pot of hot water you just vacated. While the muffin toasts, the eggs will heat up and the hollandaise will cool slightly. By the time you’ve draped some smoked salmon or Canadian bacon across your muffins (I’m partial to the salmon, though. It’s like velvet), the poached eggs should be warm enough to serve, and hey presto! Eggs benedict for brunch, just like that.

Food Blog April 2014-3599

Hollandaise for 1 or 2
1 teaspoon cider vinegar (regular white vinegar or white wine vinegar would be fine too)
2 teaspoons water
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
3 ounces butter (6 tablespoons), melted
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
Black or cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Heat water in a medium pot to a bare simmer. It does not need to be boiling.
  • While the water heats, combine vinegar, water, and salt in a glass bowl. Stir or swish to dissolve the salt.
  • Add the yolk and whisk up a bit.
  • Place the bowl over a pot of hot water, but don’t let it touch the water. Keep the water at a low simmer; we are not looking for a rolling boil, or even a boil at all. This should be a gradual cooking process, so the yolk doesn’t scramble.
  • Bring the water to a simmer, whisking the mixture constantly. First there will be small, fizzy bubbles, but as you keep whisking the yolk will get very pale in color and start to gain volume. It becomes quite fluffy and starts to look like, well, like hollandaise sauce. This may take 3 or 4 minutes, or it may take more like 7 or 8. It depends on the speed and ferocity with which you whisk it.
  • When the sauce volume has at least doubled, turn off the heat and start drizzling in the melted butter, slowly, whisking CONSTANTLY. The sauce will get thick and creamy. If it suddenly looks really shiny or like it’s going to separate, whisk hard, lay off on the butter for a few seconds, and add another teaspoon of water.
  • After you’ve added all the butter, and the sauce is thick, creamy, and rich looking, add the lemon juice and pepper, if using. Season to taste with salt, if needed. To prevent overcooking and unattractive clumpiness, remove it from the pot of water until ready to serve.
  • Serve over poached eggs or steamed asparagus, warm but not piping hot – the flavor intensifies as it cools a bit.