This week I will show you how you can master the two Holy Grails of emulsion sauces, both hot and cold: the garlic mayonnaise and what I call the minefield of the culinary world: the Hollandaise sauce. As a bonus I will reveal how to make the perfect Dijon mustard dressing. All of these are good to know in this economic downturn as you can use them with any kind of foodstuffs and/or with leftovers in your refrigerator.
Pix below is of a Dijon mustard & olive oil dressing heavily laced with basil & flat parsley.
In any commercial kitchen one way of seeing if an apprentice will cut the ice (or pass the mustard!) is via an acceptable and well balanced Hollandaise. The ones who invariably fail are the ones who don't understand the basic premise of an emulsion sauce.
On cooking: your kitchen is full of apparatus; devices to heat, steam and cool, tools to mix, cut, chop and grind, contraptions to measure out ingredients and materials that react together. Basically, every time you follow a recipe you are conducting an experiment. I still do: every time I make a new dish or a variation of an old standard, I enter no man's land. First you measure out the ingredients, mix (or react) them together following the instructions, cook and then eat the result. But a good cook must use his/her experience to vary the temperature and the proportions of the ingredients to make a better dish the next time around.
So what is an emulsion sauce? To put it simply it means one substance is suspended in another (I'm not talking about suspension of disbelief here, that's another story). Or conversely, an emulsion is a blending of oil or some other form of fat (in this case butter) and a water based liquid, whereby tiny droplets of the one are dispersed in the other. In the case of Hollandaise, egg yolk and a reduction (recipe below) is suspended in butter and a little lemon juice is added as well as some water to prevent it from ending up with scrambled eggs.
Hollandaise sauce derives its name from the high quality of butter produced in Holland (the Netherlands for many is the land of windmills, clogs and tulips. It is also the land of lush green meadows and peacefully grazing cattle. The land of milk, butter and cheese which is from the basis of Holland's prosperity. This small, densely populated country is the world's largest exporter of cheese, butter and powdered milk. In 1870 Holland was the leading butter exporter in the world) so
the name fits nicely since this sauce involves butter, and lots of it. Before we proceed, a word of caution, from my friends at Chow:
Hollandaise is difficult to prepare because it takes a great deal of temperature regulation. If the sauce gets too cold or too hot it becomes ruined. Also, due to the ingredients that make up hollandaise and its holding temperature, Hollandaise can be a breading ground for bacteria. So take caution. Always serve fresh Hollandaise. According to the USDA it is present in only one in 20,000 yolks heating them to 160 degrees will dispel the last vestiges of those odds.
Ok, so far so good: let's do one. You need 6 egg yolks and half a pound of unsalted butter, very soft. The juice of 1 lemon, a glass of water and 6 tablespoons of a white wine reduction: pour a glass of dry white wine into a saucepan, add 4 finely minced shallots, a dash of white wine vinegar and half a dozen cracked peppercorns. Reduce over a medium flame until all you have left is an essence or 6 tablespoons of this precious liquid.
Some chefs attempt to make Hollandaise over a direct flame. Not a good idea if you're a novice. Hollandaise should be made in a double boiler. First the egg yolks are placed in a stainless steel bowl (or copper lined with tin) which rests on top of the saucepan (all you need is a little bit of steam escaping from the water pot. The water can not touch the bottom of the bowl directly or this will curdle your sauce in no time. Doing it over a double boiler allows you to quickly remove the bowl from the heat if things get too hot, literally). Start by simultaneously whisking and heating egg yolks, add the reduction of white wine & shallots, and a little water here and there, slowly blending in butter until a creamy and rich sauce is produced. Make sure you use some elbow oil and whisk furiously. You can season it with salt and black or or even red or pink pepper as you go. It is delicious albeit a little decadent and pairs well with just about anything you care to serve it with.
Shirley Corriher has a book out which reveals the tricks of the trade. As both a biochemist and culinary consultant, she clearly explains the scientific principles behind kitchen secrets.
If it starts curdling, don't panic. Take the bowl off the water pot and add a little water or more lemon juice (in addition to adding a tangy flavor, the acid in the lemon juice inhibits proteins from coalescing, to a point. It also encourages the protein chains to unwind without balling up into curds. Hence the furious whisking!) You can also cheat and use a few dollops of full fat crème fraîche, whisking it into the sauce. Under no circumstances use yogurt as it separates at 80ºC (178F).
Variations of Hollandaise are many:
Béarnaise: Hollandaise with Tarragon added to the reduction;
Choron: Béarnaise with Tomato coulis;
Foyot: Béarnaise with meat glaze
Maltaise: Hollandaise with Blood Orange Juice and blanched Lemon zest
Mousseline: Whipped Cream
Some add a purée of anchovy to it or a coulis of red bell peppers. You can go wild and add combination of freshly chopped herbs to it as well. But remember, serve it as soon as it's done.
Garlic Mayonnaise or Aioli, as we call it in the south of France. This magic mayonnaise can be used for potato salads, tuna & salmon, vegetable medleys, bean and pasta salads, in sandwiches and on toast! It refrigerates well though I would not keep it for more than 2 days (no chance of that in my house, it goes in seconds).
For a few helpings you will need:
20 to 30 cloves of pink garlic,
6 egg yolks,
2 medium-sized boiled potatoes, peeled
1 pint of extra-virgin olive oil,
1 or 2 pinches of sea salt & black pepper to suit, a lemon wedge.
Crush the garlic in the mortar. Once fully crushed, add the yolks, salt and pepper, then the cubed potatoes. Keep crushing in a circular movement. Now begin to add the olive oil very slowly using a whisk. Half way through, squeeze the lemon wedge into it. The Aioli must be very firm so it's best to do this manually, but if you're out of time, you can use a food processor....but, but, don't forget a food processor's centrifugal force will cook the egg yolks and heat the oil, and it will not taste as good. Voila, you have made a cold emulsion sauce.
I'm constantly surprised at people who ask me why their salad dressing made with mustard breaks. It breaks because it must be made precisely as such: in a bowl, put 4 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and start whisking (with a proper whisk, not the flat kind or Jonas) Add half a glass of red wine vinegar (or Balsamic), keep whisking, add some finely minced garlic, a little more vinegar, and then start pouring the oil slowly, whisking all the time, until you get a smooth dressing (roughly 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil). You can add just about any herb you fancy and can use any oil of your choice or any kind of mustard, just remember the golden rule: mustard first, then vinegar, then spices & salt etc, then oil. A good dressing will compliment anything you care to mix it with, and making it yourself is way better than buying those already made bottles that contain additives and God knows what else.
For those who missed the rosemary diary last week because the site behaved crazily, it's here. Next week I'm thinking about making fresh pasta, and writing about a good beef lasagne flavored with smoked duck (the vegetarian version is also a knock-out, involving smoked tofu, asparagus and baby root vegetables which are becoming available as spring is upon us). Tally Ho!