Best pronounced with a heavy French accent, Hollandaise sauce was indeed created by the French somewhere in the 17th century. More specifically in a small town in the Calvados region called Isigny-sur-Mer, where butter and cream where staples in every kitchen.
According to ForknPlate, French chef François Pierre La Varenne used the cooking sauce to finish off his asparagus dish. In his first cookbook "Le Cuisinier François" (The French cook), published 1651, La Varenne describes how a mixture of fresh butter, a little vinegar, salt and an egg yolk make the perfect fragrant sauce for his leafy greens.
After World War I, the cooking sauce became an ode to another place, namely the Netherlands. Hollandaise sauce translates directly into "Dutch sauce," referring to the Dutch butter the French imported as a substitute for rich cream. However, no one is really sure if that event sparked the name change, as Hollandaise sauce was apparently already mentioned in several cookbooks long before World War I ended. Archive.org tells us that in the 1758 cookbook “Les Dons de Comus” by François Marin, a lemon-based sauce called “Sauce à la Hollandaise” was named as one of the ingredients.
Hollandaise sauce, a true gem or a total disaster
The perfect Hollandaise sauce is silky, containing an air-light texture and a rich butter taste. Its key ingredients are butter and eggs, but the difference between a great and a disastrous Hollandaise sauce lies in the quality and technique. Real butter, real eggs and the right amount of lemon are the keys to success.
As for the technique? Gradual whisking on exactly the right temperature. Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion sauce that's created over low heat while carefully whisking in clarified butter into egg yolks. The butter needs to be cut into small enough pieces (or already melted). If you add all the butter at once, the ingredients won't combine. A handy trick if this happens to your Hollandaise sauce experiment, is to take your pan off the heat and add a tablespoon of cold water before continuing to whisk further.
When making the sauce, you want to aim for the exact right temperature. Too low and your Hollandaise sauce will not get that thick consistency. Too hot and you're left with a crumbly texture that looks like your serving a plate of scrambled eggs. In this case, you can either start from scratch or try to save the day by mixing an egg yolk with a tablespoon of cold water in a separate bowl. From there, add your first-attempt batch slowly and whisk the old with the new.
Furthermore you want to make sure you add enough air. Manual whisking is the best technique to do so, though a hand-held mixer also does the job. Watch out with a blender, as the blades probably won't do your mixture justice and thus won't guarantee that silky smooth texture. If you do feel experimental enough for some risky business, then make sure to start with your egg yolks and lemon, give the ingredients a few whirls, and let in some air. From there, add in the freshly melted butter and keep your blender on low until you see the cooking sauce texture thicken.
You could also save yourself the trouble and try our delicious which captures all the key elements of a perfectly balanced Hollandaise.
Why sauce Hollandaise is always a good idea
Though in the food service industry you most often come across Hollandaise sauce in eggs Benedict and asparagus dishes, the cooking sauce can be served with a lot more types of food.
Why not try to pair Hollandaise sauce with:
- Tender chicken breasts
- Roasted broccoli
- Fresh seafood
- Pan-roasted salmon
- Potato quiche
- Breakfast poutine
- Chile seared steak
- Hash browns
- Crab cakes
Doesn’t that sound delicious?
Though the cooking sauce is famous for its unsalted butter, egg yolks and a hint of lemon juice, you're free to try out new add ons such as a pinch of cayenne pepper, white wine, a bay leaf, or tarragon. A refreshing twist on a classic portion of Eggs Benedict can be anything from using a matcha sauce (yes, really) to pairing the eggs with Portobello mushrooms.