My Citizens, we are almost done with our week of world sauces, so it’s time to visit France for one of the world’s foremost ‘mother sauces’ – hollandaise! A good Hollandaise is a thing of emulsified gastronomic wonder, but can be challenging to make. As it happens, the version of Hollandaise used by the legendary French Chef Escoffier is rarely used today, but is FAR superior to the version you’ve tried before – trust your all-knowing TFD on this one!
Hollandaise sauce, formerly also called Dutch sauce, is an emulsion of egg yolk, melted butter, water and lemon juice (or a white wine or vinegar reduction). It is usually seasoned with salt, and white pepper or cayenne pepper.
Hollandaise is one of the five mother sauces in French cuisine. It is well known as a key ingredient of eggs Benedict, and is often served on vegetables such as steamed asparagus.
Sauce Hollandaise is French for ‘Dutch sauce’. The name implies Dutch origins, but the actual connection is unclear. The name ‘Dutch sauce’ is documented in English as early as 1573, though without a recipe showing that it was the same thing. The first documented recipe is from 1651 in La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier François for ‘asparagus with fragrant sauce’: “make a sauce with some good fresh butter, a little vinegar, salt, and nutmeg, and an egg yolk to bind the sauce; take care that it doesn’t curdle.”
Not much later, in 1667, a similar Dutch recipe was published. Thus the popular theory that the name comes from a recipe that the Huguenots brought back from their exile in Holland is chronologically untenable.
La Varenne is credited with bringing sauces out of the Middle Ages with his publication and may well have invented hollandaise sauce. A more recent name for it is sauce Isigny, named after Isigny-sur-Mer, which is famous for its butter. Isigny sauce is found in recipe books starting in the 19th century.
By the 19th century, sauces had been classified into four categories by Carême. One of his categories was allemande, which was a stock-based sauce using egg and lemon juice. Escoffier replaced allemande with Hollandaise in his list of the five mother sauces of haute cuisine. While many believe that a true Hollandaise sauce should only contain the basic ingredients of eggs, butter and lemon, Prosper Montagne suggested using either a white wine or vinegar reduction, similar to a Béarnaise sauce, to help improve the taste.
In English, the name ‘Dutch sauce’ was common through the nineteenth century, but was largely displaced by Hollandaise in the twentieth.
Citizens, I could never hope to improve upon the instructions, pictures and recipe offered by author extraordinaire Michael Ruhlman – you can see his instructions and pictures here.
I will post his recipe steps here for convenience, but by all means – do check out his fantastic website!
Battle on – The Generalissimo