Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauces

Notoriously rich and difficult to keep from “breaking”, both Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauces are emulsion sauces; meaning that they consist of droplets of fat suspended in water which are (semi) stabilized by egg protein (lecithin). Hollandaise is considered by many to be one of the finest sauces of western cooking. Many European cooks consider Béarnaise sauce a mother sauce unto its own; but in the US, cooks start by making Hollandaise and finishing the sauce with tarragon, vinegar and shallots to make their Béarnaise. Hollandaise is good on egg dishes, vegetables and fish. Béarnaise, with its stronger flavor, is great on broiled meats, salmon and steaks. The following Hollandaise recipe is not too hard to complete and should be fairly fool-proof, you may want to use it immediately for this sauce is hard to hold to long (more than 2 hours) and will separate into an oily mess. But if it fails I will add instructions on how to fix a “turned” sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
1 1/4 stick melted unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk the egg yolks in your saucepan for a minute or so until they become thicker and turn a pale yellow. Add lemon juice and whisk. Add 2 tablespoons of the cold butter before placing on heat. While this butter melts, it should help to keep the eggs from curdling. Set the pan over low heat and whisk. Keep an eye on your mixture. As the eggs thicken, you should be able to see more and more of the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and whisk in remaining cold butter a tablespoon at a time. This will stop the yolks from cooking any further.

Add the warm melted butter in slowly and by slow I mean drizzle! Whisk to make a thick sauce. Whisk in seasonings and a little more lemon juice if you feel it needs it.

For a sauce that refuses to thicken, is too thin or has curdled: Take a tablespoon of the turned sauce and place in a separate mixing bowl. Whisk it with a tablespoon of lemon juice until it thickens. Drizzle in bits the turned sauce into THIS mixture slowly and whisk… let each addition of turned sauce thicken before adding more.

Béarnaise Sauce

A reduction of:
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 dry vermouth
1 tablespoon shallot, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
1 1/4 stick melted unsalted butter

Combine vinegar, vermouth, shallots, tarragon, salt and pepper and boil down mixture until it reduces to about 2 tablespoons. Strain mixture into another saucepan. Substitute this reduction for the lemon juice in the previous recipe.

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