Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Excuse to eat Hollandaise

Don't worry, I'm not going to pretend that I made my own crabcakes. I bet I could, but not for breakfast, or at any rate, not on the day I wanted to eat them. I did make the crumpets, but I did that last night, so all I did this morning was make everything hot and assemble the sauce. And anyway, you can buy perfectly good crumpets or english muffins. I just happen to like my recipe.

Hollandaise is lots easier to make than you might think. Certainly it it easy enough that it should never cross your mind to buy it in a can. I've seen it in the store, and it scares me. Once you read the instructions for making it, it ought to become perfectly clear that Hollandaise is a substance which was never intended to be shelf-stable.

Hollandaise Sauce

For each person you will need:

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water (or milk, or cream, or half and half. My half and half had gone off, so I used water, and it was just fine)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, more or less
a sprinkle of salt and a dash of cayenne

Put the egg yolks and the water in the top of a double boiler and whisk them together. Drop in the butter, and keep stirring gently as the water underneath heats up. Whisk faster as the sauce thickens, and when it is is about as thick as very soft butter, remove the top of the boiler from the heat and slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Add a dash of salt & cayenne, and that's it! It all takes less than 5 minutes.

The amount of lemon you put in is up to you. I like mine quite tart and lemony, so I put in a lot. There is lots of butter in this recipe, and the acid balances out the fat. If your sauce gets too thick, you can rescue it in one of 2 ways: Whisk in a couple teaspoons of hot water, or another little pat of butter (guess which one I did). If your sauce is too thin, as it was the time I made this at Jej's house, let the sauce cool, and whisk in a tablespoon of the egg white. Return it to the double boiler and keep whisking until the sauce thickens. Admittedly, this will give a slightly more pronounced egg flavor to the sauce, but I don't mind that. You're just going to put it on eggs anyway, right?

If you want to replicate the breakfast in the picture, here is a rough outline-

5 mushrooms
6 frozen asparagus spears
a sprig of fresh rosemary, optional but very tasty
1 frozen crabcake
1 crumpet
a poached egg
1 serving of hollandaise as described above

Slice the mushrooms and break the asparagus into 1-2 inch bits. Butter a heavy skillet and turn the heat up to about medium. Put in the mushrooms, rosemary, and asparagus in a single layer. My skillet is pretty big, so there was room for the crabcake at the same time. Cover the pan. After a few minutes, turn everything over to brown the other sides.

Start a small pot of water to poach the egg.

Assemble the hollandaise. If it gets finished before everything else is ready to go, don't panic. Take it off the heat and cover it up until you want it.

Drop the crumpet in the toaster. Poach the egg. Stack everything up, warm up the hollandaise over hot water if needed, and drizzle over the plate.  For extra Ta-Da! factor, mince up a pinch of fresh rosemary and sprinkle on top. Also a little black pepper, if you like.

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