How to Make Hollandaise Sauce

You can add the art of sauce-making to your culinary repertoire by learning how to make hollandaise sauce, a rich and tangy “mother” sauce you can later expand upon.

| April/May 2012

According to Julia Child, “Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking.” Ever practical, the force behind bringing the splendor of French cooking to the masses also believed that one of sauce’s most useful functions is “to make an interesting dish out of something simple.” Hollandaise sauce is rich, tangy, and fancifies the simple foods it’s served with, which most often include English muffins, eggs, asparagus and artichokes.

Although a list of French sauces could go on and on, they can actually be divided into just a few families, with hollandaise being a “mother” sauce — the mother of the egg yolk-and-butter sauces, to be exact.

You may have heard that it’s tricky to make hollandaise sauce, and that’s true. An egg yolk will hold a certain number of fat droplets in suspension — this is called a “colloid” — until it can’t hold any more, at which point it “breaks.” The most delicious hollandaise sauces contain a maximum of butter, but starting with a minimum will help you achieve success. You can actually make hollandaise in a blender without fail (see Blender Hollandaise to learn how), but that method won’t allow you to use the maximum amount of butter, nor will it teach you how to make a mother sauce that you can later expand upon.

Alton Brown, the nerdy Food Network chef who loves demystifying cooking science, believes that sauces are scary to today’s home cooks because “they are not of our time.” They are of a time when chef “dinosaurs” roamed the Earth, he says. Not enough of today’s kitchens have the meat scraps, bones, fish heads and carrot tops lying around that are necessary to create great stocks and sauces, so the techniques have fallen out of practice. But you can change that. Why not give sauce-making a shot so you’ll be able to say you can cook as well as those “culinary T-Rexes” of yore?

Choose Carefully

Eggs and butter from animals raised on pasture will yield a richer, more delicious — and more nutritious — sauce.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

After you’ve nailed the basic hollandaise technique, check out Chapter 2 of Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to learn 10 ways to build basic hollandaise into something even more “interesting.” Afterward, you can dive into 60 other sauces.

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