Q. I’ve tried to make hollandaise sauce and it was a disaster! What are your tips for making it silky smooth? —Elowen, Greenville
A. Hollandaise is one of the five “mother sauces” by which all other sauces are derived. It is an “emulsified” sauce, which means there are two ingredients that are permanently combined that would otherwise not merge together, like oil and water. The primary ingredient in hollandaise sauce is clarified butter, and the sauce is then flavored with a hint of citrus (usually lemon), salt, pepper and perhaps a drop of Worcestershire and/or hot sauce. The key to the successful emulsion is to continually whisk the egg yolks (the emulsifier) with a little water and citrus juice over low heat until they coagulate and reach a light pudding-like consistency. Constant whisking is critically important so the eggs do not overcook and remain velvety-smooth. Once the yolks reach this stage, the warm melted butter can be slowly introduced to the egg yolk mixture by whisking it in. The eggs will absorb the butter into an emulsification. If the butter is too hot or introduced too fast, the emulsion may break, and although you can reuse the ingredients, you basically need to start over. It is considered a culinary accomplishment when one masters making hollandaise sauce!
Note 1: There are 6 mother sauces if you count mayonnaise (which I do).
Note 2: The other mother sauces are velouté (blonde), bechamel (white), tomato (red) and espagnole (brown).
Note 3: Wieners and bologna are considered emulsified sausages.
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