This week’s recipe isn’t a dish as such, but rather a sauce. You might think that’s a bit of a cop out. But then again, ‘French cuisine is all about sauce’, and sauce à la hollandaise is one of its five ‘mother sauces’ (source: The Kitchn). And it would go perfectly with my asparagus. My source recipe was from my Françoise Bernard's book Les Recettes Faciles (easy recipes) – and easy it was.
A whisk like any other?
My recipe asked for a fouet à sauce, or a ‘sauce whisk’. To be honest, I didn’t realise there were different types of whisks, beyond silicone vs stainless steel. But a sauce whisk is a thing – in fact there are a few different types as you can see here. And what is a sauce whisk?
‘Also called a flat whisk or a roux whisk, a sauce whisk is characterized by three or four wires bent in a U shape in a single plane and attached at both ends to a sturdy handle. Because of its flat shape, a sauce whisk can stir on the bottom of a wide, shallow pan, scraping up the browned bits and making it a great tool for deglazing pans and emulsifying sauces.’
(Source: Reluctant Gourmet)
I used my one and only whisk (a balloon whisk) and it was absolutely fine.
In more whisk-related terminology, what do you call the individual wires of the whisk? In French, it’s the branches du fouet (‘whisk branches’). A sensible name. But in English I wasn’t sure. They’re called wires on this site, while they’re variously referred to as ‘loops’, ‘strands’ or ‘wires’ here. In the end I didn’t actually refer to the specific parts of the whisk, but simply said ‘when it starts to stick to the whisk’.
Don’t let the sauce ‘turn’ (or curdle)
One of the challenges with hollandaise is ensuring it doesn’t curdle. My source recipe expressed curdling as tourner or ‘turning’. Interestingly, in English we do talk about food ‘turning’ but normally this is used when something has gone bad. Meanwhile, ‘curdling’ is more specific, and refers to one substance (like milk or eggs) ‘separat[ing] into different bits’ (Source: Collins Dictionary). In fact, we can also talk about dairy products ‘splitting’ or even ‘separating’ as well (source: Cookipedia)
So many words to express what is essentially the same concept!
My recipe was lovely and straightforward and I had no problems whatsoever. Interestingly, Françoise Bernard explained that although she’s seen many chefs add the lemon juice right at the end, she’s had better luck adding it at the beginning. Also, the Larousse Gastronomique and other sites I looked at instruct you to add butter from the beginning. In contrast, mine, unmelted, was stirred in right at the end, after it was removed from the heat.
Recipe and substitution ideas
This Jamie Oliver recipe looks reasonably similar to my source recipe, adding butter at the end: . However I didn’t use the bain marie method – just directly over (a very low) heat, so you could avoid some faff there.
You can’t really substitute the eggs or butter in this recipe, since this is pretty much all it is.
I’m planning on making a classic French dessert – if I can get my hands on the ingredients I need.