Tag Archives: Harold McGee


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.


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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


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Just as with everything else, there are trends and fashions at the farmers market. Year before last it was cardoons. Last year it was kohlrabis. Now those are old hat. This year one of the new items is black haricots verts. Actually they’re not black but a very deep shade of purple that looks black. The beans are very distinctive, heaped up in baskets next to the regular green pole beans. It’s very hard to resist buying some if you are looking for something a little different to try out.

Many of you experienced cooks probably already know this, but I was surprised and more than a little disappointed when I dropped the beans into boiling water to blanch them, and the purple/black color disappeared. Suddenly my haricots verts were, indeed, green.

Curious to know why that happened, I turned to the most reliable expert on kitchen science that I know, Harold McGee, author of a regular column in the New York Times and numerous books including On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Second edition, Scribner, New York, 2004). Sure enough, there he had a short scholarly discussion of anthocyanins (pp. 267-268, 281-281) It turns out that the red and purple colors of most flowers and vegetables are due to a group of about 300 related chemicals known as anthocyanins. They are very sensitive to alkalinity and acidity as well as some metals, which help to determine the color that the chemical gives to a flower or vegetable. They are also highly water-soluble, so when the spaces where they are stored break open during the cooking process, the coloration is rapidly diluted and dissipates. Hence, the beautiful black beans turn a beautiful chlorophyll-green. And that’s ok, too, because the blanched haricots verts can be used for whatever might be one of your favorite dishes.

I decided to use them in a chilled salad with scallions and dill, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. The bright green chlorophyll color was terrific.


Haricots Verts Vinaigrette with Scallions and Dill


  • 1 pound fresh haricots verts, washed and trimmed
  • 4 scallions cut in ½ inch slices, whites and greens included
  • ¼ cup fresh dill fronds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (not the expensive stuff)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff)


  1. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil
  2. Add the green beans in a single batch and return the water to the boil
  3. Boil the beans for no more than 4 minutes so that they remain crisp. Drain and immediately plunge into a prepared large bowl of ice and chilled water.
  4. When the beans have cooled, drain and transfer them to the refrigerator until they are ready to use. (Remove any remaining pieces of ice)
  5. Prepare the scallions and dill. Set aside.
  6. Using a whisk and a small bowl, combine the vinegar, minced garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and sugar.
  7. Whisking continuously, slowly stir in the olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Correct the seasoning.
  8. In a large bowl, combine the haricots verts, scallions, and dill. Dress with the vinaigrette to suit your taste.  Adjust the seasoning. Chill, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for an hour to let the flavors blend.
  9. Serve alone or on lettuce leaves.





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