Hollandaise is probably the most well know mother sauce because it shows up, quite flavorlessly I might note, on just about every brunch menu everywhere. It is also one of overpriced restaurants' favorite accoutrements to asparagus(I think they just use it for color most of the time). I have even seen some sort of dried version that you can get in paper packages and reconstitute with water, sad.
Hollandaise is my favorite because I have had the real stuff, and I have been making it for as long as I remember. Unfortunately, Hollandaise has a reputation as being really difficult to make, and make correctly. Honestly, it isn't.
There are a million ways to make it. In our sauce class the other day I learned that I make it the hard way, but there is less effort in my opinion. This is my recipe which originally came from my nana:
6-8 oz butter, melted in the microwave until there are just a few pieces that haven't quite melted yet, I melt in a measuring cup with a spout to help pouring later
2 tbl cold butter chopped into pieces
1 tbl cold water (I like to put this and the butter in the freezer until I am ready for them)
3 egg yolks (be careful to only get the yolk)
1 tbl lemon juice (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk egg yolks in a saucepan (I use my le creuset) over low heat for about 1 min until they become thick and sticky, and lighten slightly in color.
Add water, and lemon juice and beat 1/2 min more.
Turn burner to lowest setting possible, or simmer, and add 1 tbl of cold butter. Remove from heat and beat in the other 1 tbl cold butter.
Continue beating yolks with whisk pouring in melted butter a few tablespoons at a time until sauce thickens into heavy cream, you will probably have to move on and off the heat for this. Use all melted butter. Season with s&p, and more lemon juice.
It may sound complicated, and you should probably have lots of eggs on hand to practice with. It might even be worthwhile to just practice whisking an eggs yolk in your pan on low heat to see how long it takes to curdle. Just watch carefully. Make sure you can make a sound omelet before trying hollandaise. As long as you know what egg yolks look like as they get hotter and scramble, you should be able to recognize when to add cold water and butter to the hollandaise to cool the temperature.
In cooking class the other day, we first melted butter on the stove until the foam on top began to subside (this is called clarifying and it removes the water). Then removed the butter from the heat while we cooked the yolks.
For that we made a double boiler, whisked the egg yolks in a metal bowl on top of the water, until they were warm to the touch.
We removed the yolks from the heat and poured in the butter a few tablespoons at a time while still whisking. Then we added lemon juice and s&p to taste.
I think this method is more foolproof because you are much less likely to curdle the yolks with the indirect heat. In fact I think everyone in the class made their hollandaise nearly perfectly and no one had done it before, except for myself.
Now honestly, I am sure many of us watched the episode of Top Chef where Leah made hollandaise with a bad consistency and everyone gave her a hard time. I don't know what the correct consistency should be. I think as long as it coats your food and isn't a river on the plate, its perfect.
I think hollandaise is worth a few trys, eventually you'll get it right, and when you do, its sooooo worth it.
I like my hollandaise on eggs benedict, or with a meal of oven fried chicken, rice-a-roni, and asparagus, or with steak, but honestly, its most delicious right off a spoon...