MAIS OUI! The Humble Egg!

What is the single most important element in some of our favorite dishes such as quiche, soufflés, hollandaise, mayonnaise, meringues, cakes, mousse, custards. – MAIS OUI! the humble egg! 

In the words of Michael Ruhlman (well-known food writer and chef) “Eggs are a perfect food- an ingredient, tool and object, a natural construction of near mystical proportions.” 

In its raw form we love eggs poached, scrambled, structured (omelet), hard cooked, fried, shirred, you name it. And everyone has their favorite way to have their eggs prepared. The only way I don’t care for eggs is fried – due to many years of growing up when my dear mother would make me sunny side up (liked that part) but the edges of the whites were always too browned for me and if I see one it still grosses me out! 

Eggs used as a tool in the kitchen are one of nature’s miracles. Egg whites can clarify a stock, they can act as a leavener, the minuscule air bubbles can work their magic in soufflés, sponge cakes, mousses, meringues and hundreds of other ways.   The yolks with their high protein content, form the basis for many sauces such as Hollandaise, Mayonnaise and many derivates of those two mother sauces. What their special little talent here is that they create a velvety smooth texture in emulsions. (An emulsion is the wedding of two things that don’t naturally go together in nature such as oil and vinegar — or man and woman some might say! — but when they blend and hold together they create a uniform consistency= emulsion). 

Also custards, flans, and the like owe their universal appeal to the almighty egg yolk. 

Of course, in Vivienne’s’ kitchen, knowledgeable egg cookery is a given. She would NEVER create a Hollandaise or Mayonnaise using a commercial product. C’EST  TERRIBLE ! 

It is fairly easy to create a delicious Hollandaise with a blender, but Vivienne prefers the hand method that she mastered in her years of French training. Must tell you, it is a challenge to perfect the method by hand as temperature is the variable that is SO critical, and to get that emulsion of egg and butter to hold and to last one must have impeccable timing! 

I am sharing both versions here with you – for those of you who wish to try it by hand, best of luck! Until I mastered this I think I went through $$$$ butter and eggs!!! 

(Remember: Hollandaise does not hold for long – perhaps 2-3 hours max kept at proper temperature ).

Here is a trick you will thank me for: best way to hold this sauce is in a thermos! No danger of heat building up too much over time and breaking the emulsion. 

Hollandaise

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 Large egg yolks, room temperature
  • I TBS. Fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
  • I Stick of unsalted butter

Directions:

1.Combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper in a blender on high speed.

2. Cut the butter into chunks and melt the butter on the stovetop till frothy and lightly bubbling. Pour into measuring cup. Turn blender on high speed and, with blender running, slowly stream in the warm butter.  Note: Butter must be hot but not boiling. You might have to reheat the butter for a few seconds before adding to blender.

3. Taste and adjust the sauce; Stop the blender and taste a small spoonful.  It should taste rich, buttery and slightly tangy.  Add in a little salt, lemon juice or cayenne pepper, if needed.

4. Serve the sauce.  Hollandaise sauce is best served while still warm. Hollandaise is best held for up to 2 hours in a thermos

.

Hand Made Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • ½  pound melted butter, cooled to room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Use a small, thick ceramic bowl set in a heavy-bottomed pan, or a heavyweight double boiler. 
    1. Off the heat, put the egg yolks and cream in the bowl or upper section of the double boiler and stir with a wire whisk until well-blended — the mixture should never be beaten but stirred, evenly, vigorously and continually.
    1.  Place the container over hot water (if you are setting the bowl in water, there should be about 1 1/2 inches of water in the pan; in a double boiler, the water should not touch the top section). 
    1. Stirring eggs continuously, bring the water slowly to a simmer. Do not let it boil. Stir, incorporating the entire mixture so there is no film at the bottom. 
    1. When the eggs have thickened to consistency of very heavy cream, begin to add the cooled melted butter with one hand, stirring vigorously with the other. Pour extremely slowly so that each addition is blended into the egg mixture before more is added. 
    1. When all the butter has been added, add the lemon juice or vinegar a drop at a time and immediately remove from heat. Add salt and a mere dash of cayenne.

Note:

If you proceed with care your Hollandaise should not curdle. If it does, however, don’t despair. Finish adding the butter as best you can. Remove sauce to a small bowl, clean the pot and put a fresh egg yolk in it. Start over again, using the curdled sauce as if it were the butter.

— Linda Bell, The Culinary Classroom

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