Mother Sauces – Day 5

Mother SaucesAhh Hollandaise sauce! My absolute favourite out of the five, if not out of all the sauces out there. Yes, I realize that is a pretty big statement to make, but have you tasted it??? It is just so good! Hollandaise is a wonderfully rich, lemony and buttery sauce that goes with eggs, vegetables and poached fish. The sauce is pretty famous for being a key ingredient in Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine. But what about to accompany artichokes?! That is my absolute favourite way to eat both the sauce and the vegetable. I realize I’m being a little obsessive about this sauce, I mean it’s just a sauce for Pete’s sake, but it is just so good. You know how certain food things just make you happy? For me that would be roasted turkey (the white meat) with cranberry sauce, sashimi, creamy mashed potatoes with rich brown gravy, and you guessed it, artichokes with hollandaise sauce. I know, this isn’t the first time that I will call myself strange in this blog.

As for the history of the sauce, there is debate as to who originally developed it. Some historians believe that it was invented in the Netherlands then taken to France by the Huguenots (what the Protestants of the time where called in a mainly Catholic France). A recipe for hollandaise sauce appears in a Dutch cookbook by Carel Baten, which dates from 1593. In 1651, François Pierre La Varenne describes a sauce similar to hollandaise in his groundbreaking cookbook Le Cuisinier François: “avec du bon beurre frais, un peu de vinaigre, sel et muscade, et un jaune d’œuf pour lier la sauce” (“with good fresh butter, a little vinegar, salt, and nutmeg, and an egg yolk to bind the sauce”). The sauce using egg yolks and butter appeared in the 19th century. Although various sources say it was first known as “sauce Isigny” (a town in Normandy said to have been renowned for the quality of its butter), Isabella Beeton’s Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management has recipes in the first edition (1861) for “Dutch sauce, for fish” and its variant on the following page, “Green sauce, or Hollandaise verte”. Her directions for hollandaise were to “…put all the ingredients, except the lemon-juice, into a stew-pan; set it over the fire, and keep continually stirring. When it is sufficiently thick, take it off, as it should not boil…”

No matter where it orginated, it’s here now, and I for one am grateful. Hollandaise is made by emulsifying butter, lemon juice and egg yolks, and has a few popular small sauces. Here are a couple examples:

• Béarnaise = shallots + tarragon + chervil + peppercorns + white wine vinegar + hollandaise
• Chantilly = whipped heavy cream + hollandaise

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks journey into the mother of all sauces, and their children. Next week? I think things are going to get a little sweet around here.