Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Busy" doesn't seem quite good enough.

Oh, hello again...

You try to find things to occupy those little spaces, and sometimes something finds you and you don't look so hard- It doesn't mean I don't miss this. It doesn't mean that I've become complacent, and it definitely doesn't mean that I've stopped trying. Distraction can be a wonderful thing.

My absence also doesn't mean I haven't been cooking, it just means that I've been cooking and enjoying the short amount of time I seem to have available to me lately.

Anyway, straight to the point: French Mother Sauces. Hollandaise. Oh... take a minute and just let the word roll of your tongue. Creamy, lemony, buttery, not-so-good-for-you and one of my favorite things. I can't think of many things of the savory persuasion that I wouldn't put it on.

Hollandaise Sauce
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

For about 1.5 cups
1 1/2 to 2 sticks of butter (I know... I know)
2 Tbl cold butter
3 egg yolks
1 Tbl cold water
1 Tbl lemon juice plus extra for later
White Pepper (Black definitely isn't bad in this either)

Eggs Benedict
Hollandaise Sauce
6 eggs*
6 slices Canadian Bacon
3 English Muffins, halved

*The amount of hollandaise in my recipe will cover about six eggs. It will keep in the fridge for just a few days, so don't feel pressure to poach all six eggs.

Making the Hollandaise:
Dudes, you can totally do this in a blender, but lets not kid ourselves. You know me better than that. NO JUDGEMENT, though, I will probably eventually switch to doing it that way, but it's good to learn this way! If you do it the original way, I find that the science makes much more sense and you have a much better feel for how certain processes are substituted.

Begin by cutting the 1 1/2-2 sticks of butter into pieces and melt them in a saucepan over medium heat. OR you can melt it in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time. Set aside.

I like to use a double boiler pot for this recipe. You can easily make a double boiler out of a small saucepan and a heatproof bowl as long as the bowl can rest on the edges of the saucepan without falling in and the bowl does not touch the water. You may want to keep a large bowl of ice water on the side in case the eggs begin to cook too fast and you need to cool down the bottom of the bowl.

Bring water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer, again, you do not want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water, the eggs will cook too fast. Away from heat, beat the egg yolks for about 1 minute in the bowl until they become thick and sticky. Add the water, lemon juice, a big pinch of salt, and beat for another 30 seconds.

Add the 1 Tbl cold butter to the mixture and place the bowl over the barely simmering water. Stir the egg yolks with a wire whisk until they thicken into a smooth cream, this should take about two minutes of constant beating. If they start to get lumpy or seem to be cooking too quickly, plunge the bottom of the bowl into the cold water. Then continue beating. The sauce is thick enough once you can see the bottom of the bowl between strokes.

Immediately remove from heat and beat in 1 Tbl butter, this will cool the eggs down enough to stop the cooking process.

While continuing to beat the eggs with a wire whip, add the melted butter by droplets until the sauce begins to thicken. Then pour more rapidly, emitting any white residue that may have formed while the butter was cooling. Season the sauce with salt, white pepper, and lemon juice. If you're lucky enough to have a gas stove you can keep the hollandaise warm by placing the bowl over the pilot light on the oven surface, or if not you can place it in a bowl of lukewarm water for about an hour.

Poaching The Eggs:
Get excited, and don't be scared! After a few tries (or maybe on the first one if you're lucky) you will get the hang of this and have a new method of egg preparation in your repertoire of culinary magicianry. I like to use a small pot, also known as a butter warmer, but really you can use any straight sided vessel.

Heat enough water so that it comes up at least two and a half inches on the side of your pot or pan. You want the water to come to a point where it's barely simmering. This can require some patience, and depending on how reliable your burners are it can be easier to just bring the water to a boil and then lower the temperature. TIP: if you are a little nervous about poaching, place the egg (in shell) in boiling water for about ten seconds before attempting to poach, it will firm up the whites and help prevent them from separating too much.

To add flavor to the egg, you can add a little bit of vinegar (I like about a tablespoon of rice wine) to the simmering water before adding the egg.

Now for the fun part: Crack the egg, being careful not to break the yolk, into a small bowl. With a slotted spoon, swirl the water until it has a nice even round rhythm. Not so fast that it's sloshing and uneven, but enough so that a funnel begins to form in the middle. When you are confident that the water is at the right speed, remove the spoon and quickly deposit the egg in the middle of the funnel. If all goes as planned, the egg whites should wrap around the yolk because of the centrical force you have created with the spinning motion*. Neat.

If you need to, shape the egg a little bit with the slotted spoon. Let it simmer for a few minutes, until the egg is firm enough that it can be easily picked up with the slotted spoon. I usually poach for a little under five minutes, but I like my yolks runny so feel free to extend the cook time.

As you can see, my sauce seems to be melting off of the poached eggs (it is, you should have seen the other plate). It is important to let the eggs cool on a paper towel for a moment after they come out of the simmering water to avoid this effect.

*It is absolutely possible to poach more than one egg at a time if you are using a larger skillet. I have not tried this, but I have heard that when the water is at the correct temperature you can add salt to help with coagulation, and add the dashes of vinegar in the exact spots where you will be placing the eggs. Shape the eggs as you normally would, but for the most part leave them alone and take them out in the order in which they were dropped into the water.

Assemble The Eggs Benedict:
Place the cooled poached egg and warmed piece of Canadian bacon on a toasted English muffin half. Pour a little more than 1/4 cup over the egg and sprinkle with a dash of paprika. Try not to die over how good this is.

Sorry this was SO LONG and there's only one pic. I'll be better next time, promise.