Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hollandaise sauce

Breakfast: Eggs Florentine; poached eggs with spinach on English muffins with hollandaise sauce

Lunch: Apple and butterscotch scone

Dinner: Tofu and vegetables in coconut milk with lemongrass and rice – its great to live in little Vietnam!

This weekend was TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and it was absolutely fantastic. The very talented Abby Denson and Matt Loux had come up from NY for it, and I was lucky enough to go to the TCAF Friday night party with them, hang out and chat all things comic.

However this did mean that Saturday morning I was knackered and still a bit giddy from the night before, leading to the slightly insane decision that before heading off to TCAF day 1, as well as icing cupcakes, I was going to make Eggs Florentine, a dish that I’ve never made before – in fact, a dish that I’ve never even eaten.

Eggs Florentine – which is Eggs Benedict but with spinach instead of bacon – is one of those dishes that’s shrouded in this sort of dark secrecy, with everyone talking about how difficult it is to make and that no one really knows how. When I hear things like that, I react with an attitude that was very much instilled in me as a child: if someone can do it, I can do it. Reading a couple of recipes just made this conviction stronger.

Evidently I had underestimated the phrase “whisk vigorously”.

I am only posting the recipe for hollandaise sauce here as I have not yet perfected the poached eggs technique and ended up with delicious but flat eggs as opposed to the impossibly round ones you get in cafes. I will crack that nut soon enough.

You’ll need:
(makes 150 ml – enough for Eggs Benedict for 2 or to drizzle on asparagus for 4)
            2 large eggs
            130g cold butter
            2 tbsps water
            a squeeze of lemon juice
            black pepper

Separate the eggs by cracking them gently and pouring the yolk from one half of the broken eggshell to the other. The white runs out while you’re doing this and ends up in the bowl that you’ve hopefully placed underneath your hands
Place both the eggs yolks into a heavy pan
Dice the butter and add this to the pan, along with the water
Put the pan over a very low heat. The pan should be cold enough to touch the whole time you’re making this sauce
Whisk. Whisk as if your life depended on it. Do not stop whisking
Turn the heat up very slightly when all the butter has melted and turn it down if the sauce starts to steam, but don’t stop whisking
Eventually the sauce will start to thicken. When its thick enough, squeeze in a little lemon juice and season with the pepper
Use immediately or store in a flask until it's needed.

This sauce isn’t just for eggs – you can top asparagus with it for a gorgeously rich addition to an otherwise healthy side dish.

There are a million more difficult ways to make hollandaise but this one works perfectly. Just remember to not, at any point, stop whisking – not even if your arm starts a petition for voluntary amputation – and to keep the heat very low, or you’ll end up with very buttery scrambled eggs. Which is, I’m sure, delightful, but hollandaise sauce it is not.

I’ll work on the poaching and get back to you. 

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