A creamy, rich sauce with a tang of lemon, hollandaise sauce is the ideal partner for steamed asparagus and eggs benedict. It is also great with grilled and poached fish, especially salmon.
Emulsified sauces using egg yolks have gathered themselves a frightening reputation with home cooks, for being difficult and curdling or separating, but hollandaise is really quick and easy to make if you follow the first recipe here and use a blender. If you prefer the classic method with double boiler, directions for that are also below.
Hollandaise sauce should be served warm and made just before you need it, though it can be kept in the fridge for up to two days. It is usually served plain, with just the tang of lemon lifting the richness, but you can add some chopped fresh herbs or even a dash of mustard or Tabasco if you like to experiment and enliven the classics.
- 1 cup butter
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp cold water
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Cayenne pepper (or a dash of Tabasco sauce), to taste
- Heat an inch or two of water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Also, your butter should be warm, but not hot.
- Combine the egg yolks and the cold water in a glass or stainless steel bowl (not aluminum) whisk for a minute or two, until the mixture is light and foamy. Whisk in a couple of drops of lemon juice, too.
- The water in the saucepan should have begun to simmer. Set the bowl directly atop the saucepan of simmering water. The water itself should not come in contact with the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the eggs for a minute or two, until they're slightly thickened.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and begin adding the melted butter slowly at first, a few drops at a time, while whisking constantly. If you add it too quickly, the emulsion will break.
- Continue beating in the melted butter. As the sauce thickens, you can gradually increase the rate at which you add it, but at first, slower is better.
- After you've added all the butter, whisk in the remaining lemon juice and season to taste with Kosher salt and cayenne pepper (or a dash of Tabasco sauce). The finished hollandaise sauce will have a smooth, firm consistency. If it's too thick, you can adjust the consistency by whisking in a few drops of warm water.
It's best to serve hollandaise right away. You can hold it for about an hour or so, provided you keep it warm. After two hours, though, you should toss it both for quality and safety reasons.