I have been making hollandaise sauce in a blender since reading about it in Mastering the Art of French Cooking over forty years ago. After all this time I learn that I have been doing it wrong. That’s probably because Julia Child wrote that any 8-year-old child could follow the recipe. (How’s that for an ego-squelcher?) She also said that the sauce would not accept as much butter nor be as good as the sauce you made laboriously over a steaming water bath. My hollandaise always turned out a little runny, but I thought it was a butter thing and just the way it was. Nothing could be further from the truth. From watching too much TV on the Food Network, reading Michel Roux’s Eggs and Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking, and playing with my new Vita-Mix, I have discovered several mistakes I have made over the years. By correcting them, I have been able to make the hollandaise of my dreams and fool-proof. It has become so easy to make and so delicious that I have become a serial saucier, putting hollandaise on asparagus, artichokes, and tonight I’m thinking of hamburgers.
HERE’S WHAT I’VE LEARNED:
1.) The eggs must be at room temperature. This is very important. If you are even thinking about making hollandaise in the afternoon or evening, take the eggs out of the refrigerator in the morning.
2.) Too much acid (lemon) and the sauce may not emulsify and will be runny. For three egg yolks use one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. If you want a more lemony flavor, you can always add some more juice after the sauce has come together.
3.) A little mustard will help the emulsification just as it does with vinaigrette and hand-made mayonnaise.
4.) Clarified butter is the gold standard, but plain melted butter, preferably unsalted, will work. Just don’t pour the milk solids that settle on the bottom into the blender. You can melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. The measuring cup may give you better control as you pour the butter into the blender. In either case, be careful not to brown or burn the butter. Let the melted butter sit for a minute or two so that the solids settle to the bottom, but the melted butter should be warm when you add it to the sauce mixture.
5.) Patience. If you just dump the melted butter into the blender, it may not come together. A slow drizzle over several minutes – just as you do with the oil in making a vinaigrette – is best. You can actually see and hear the changes when the sauce emulsifies.
So, there they are: secrets of the ages revealed. And here’s a basic recipe for hollandaise sauce made in a blender.
Blender Hollandaise Sauce
- 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
- pinch cayenne (to taste)
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, mustard, and cayenne to the container of the blender. Cover with the center plug of the lid removed. Blend on one of the higher settings of your machine.
- When the mixture is completely blended, very slowly pour the melted butter into the mixture by drizzles. This should take at least a couple of minutes. Stop adding butter when the solids at the bottom reach the lip of the butter container.
- Serve immediately. Otherwise transfer the sauce to a bowl and keep it warm in a larger bowl of warm water for no more than 30 minutes.
Our household is back to normal. My wife has returned, and that justifies celebration. More reasons to celebrate include her upcoming birthday and Mothers’ Day even though she told me many years ago in a somewhat icy tone, “I am not your mother.” Hence we both rely on telephone calls from our children to commemorate that event.
A quiet home-cooked dinner seemed like a good first event in the protracted celebration cycle. No casseroles. No health foods. Small filets with some fresh asparagus seemed like a good choice. Somehow, though, a grilled filet seemed a bit plain. That’s when I thought of the classic sauce for filet, marchand de vin – wine merchant sauce. The first time I had marchand de vin was in Louisiana many years ago. A colleague and good friend hosted us. He was anxious to introduce us as newcomers to Louisiana cuisine. He had lived in New Orleans for many years and thought that the quintessential Louisiana company dish was filet marchand de vin. It was certainly delicious.
From the name, you know the sauce has to contain wine. Beyond that, there are countless recipes with countless ingredients. Most French recipes call for the addition of demi-glace and/or other classic sauces. Their allium of choice is shallot, and for richness they often include marrow. New Orleans does everything with bold flavor, so the shallot became onion along with a lot of garlic. The recipe from Commander’s Palace substitutes ham for the marrow. This version represents a tweaking of the recipe found in Roy F. Guste, Jr.’s The 100 Greatest Dishes of Louisiana Cookery. Guste is a member of the family that owns the famous Antoine’s in the French Quarter. At one time he was the CEO of the restaurant, so he knows a thing or two about traditional New Orleans cooking. As you will see from the following recipe, there is a lot of garlic and wine, but the final brew definitely dresses up a plain old filet. I wound up using a shallot even though I knew it would be overpowered by the garlic. The reason for my transgression was that I had a shallot that needed to be used. You should use an onion if you like. We served the filets with fresh asparagus topped with hollandaise. Even though that’s a lot of sauces, it turned out to be a tasty combination. There were coconut cakes from a local artisanal bakery for dessert. A comfortable bottle of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti classico completed the feast.
Vegetables prepped for the sauce
Meat on the griddle
Filet marchand de vin with asparagus and hollandaise
Filet Marchand de Vin
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ rib celery, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- salt and pepper
- 2 – 4 filets, one for each diner
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter and flour over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth and lightly browned.
- Add the onion and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until the onions and mushrooms are lightly browned.
- Add the tomato, garlic, celery, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, wine, and stock. Simmer for an hour until the sauce is thickened enough to coat a wooden spoon. If the sauce doesn’t thicken to your satisfaction, you can help it along by stirring in a few sprinkles of Wondra flour. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper You may keep warm until ready to serve or, if you plan to use it later, chill in the refrigerator and reheat when ready to serve.
- Cook the filets by your favorite method and to your desired doneness. Rest for 5 minutes and then transfer to individual plates. Top with the warm sauce and serve.
My last night home alone, and the cupboard is fairly bare except for some eggs. In such a situation, I would usually make a scrambled egg or omelet. This time, though, I had a craving for a fried egg sandwich. I remember feasting on one at 2 AM while in college.
Cramming for exams (I know, you’re not supposed to do that. ) or finishing up a multi-page research paper always generated hunger. When we needed a study break, a group of us would load up in my Nash Rambler convertible. (You probably didn’t even know there was such a car. ) Then we would drive across town to an all-night diner, The White Palace, situated next to the train tracks. The place should definitely not be confused with the iconic White Castle of the East Coast. It was definitely a greasy spoon. The coffee, while terrible, was strong enough to keep a diligent student going until dawn. The specialty of the house was their fried egg sandwich, and it was delicious. The egg was fried over-easy to make sure that the yolk was still runny. You definitely needed a napkin to keep it from running down your arm. The sandwich was layered with a thick slice of Bermuda onion, mustard, and mayonnaise. For an extra charge you could get a slice of ham. I thought it was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten.
After college, one of my most treasured memories was the fried egg sandwiches at the White Palace. I wanted to share my joy with others. My wife was not as taken as I was. Neither was our older daughter, who can’t stand onions. But my son became a devotee, and sometimes I would make the two of us a sandwich – usually as a midnight snack. Later, whenever my son came home for visits from college he would request a fried egg sandwich. Even now, when he visits with his family I will occasionally make him a fried egg sandwich to his great delight.
There are certain obligate elements of this decidedly unrefined dish: fried egg, of course; cheese; and onion. Mayonnaise and mustard are optional, but ketchup is considered heretical. Ham or – in a pinch – bologna can be added, but they are not considered to be totally authentic. The single absolute technique required is that the yolk must be runny. The runnier the better. For serving utensils, a plate is useful, although a napkin is a necessity as you may wind up eating the sandwich over the kitchen sink. I know you will enjoy this version of the fried egg sandwich. You may think up your own variations; just don’t stray too far from the real thing.
Fried Egg, Cheese, and Onion Sandwich
- 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread
- 1 ounce cheddar cheese
- Romaine lettuce
- white onion, slices as thick and as many as you like
- salt and pepper
- Toast the bread to taste, butter one side, and place on counter for sandwich assembly.
- With a cheese plane, prepare enough slices of cheese to completely cover the slices of toasted bread to your preference.
- Arrange lettuce leaves on one slice of the toasted bread. Arrange sliced onions on the other slice of toasted bread.
- Melt some of the butter in a small sauté pan. Over low to medium-low heat, fry the egg gently on one side. Turn over once just long enough to set the egg white. Transfer to one of the waiting bread slices.Close up the sandwich and eat immediately. Under no circumstances should you cut the sandwich in pieces.