For this round of our beloved "Waiter, there's something in my..." event, Andrew of spittoon has chosen sauces for a theme. I always say that it is in the sauce that you can distinguish a good restaurant from an excellent one: the top players in the gourmet restaurant scene are said to work on one particular sauce for a couple of years before they get it just right... and we all know that when you cook in that league, serving sauces out of a sachet is clearly not enough! (Sadly, we have also all experienced restaurants where the same awful sauce, be it instant from a sachet or straight out of a jar, is served with every single dish on the menu, as I have had to experience here - and despite the criticism, I stick by my guns - and recently in a Gasthof in the vicinity of where I am spending my holidays. I won't even bore you with a review!).
Despite years of passionate cooking in which I have certainly honed my skills a lot, I still find sauces to be my weak spot. I have found many a shortcut to produce a mean sauce to accompany a great chunk of fillet steak in particular (sherry and green peppercorn being a favourite), but I admittedly don't spend hours reducing the alcohol and stock or mounting the sauce with butter - I make a leaner version that may not be following traditional line of cooking, but I do get by and nobody has ever (knowingly) blamed me for not making a "real" sauce. (Just to avoid misunderstandings, though, I do NOT use a certain brand of gravy granules, mix it with water and claim it to be home-made... I may cheat a little here and there, but I am not a criminal plus I do have tastebuds!)
And then there's the sauce of sauces. The one where you can spot the difference between a store-bought version (for years I used to think Maille's really wasn't that bad - not anymore!) and a real one from miles off... Sauce Hollandaise. Believe it or not, we use this sauce almost weekly - be it on freshly steamed vegetables or drizzled over a favourite breakfast treat of eggs benedict (or rather my own version, which I call eggs florendict) - and you will therefore believe me when I say that I have launched many failed attempts at making my own. I have lost count of the days where everything was ready for us to sit down to a leisurely Sunday brunch and I only had to concentrate on making the sauce, pearls of sweat appearing on my forehead at the mere thought of messing it up again... diligent as I (sometimes) am, I have consulted numerous books on the issue, sought online advice left, right and centre, only to find my arm breaking after whisking the sauce over a hot waterbath for what seemed like hours and the sauce splitting yet again!
Not anymore. Unfortunately for you (if you find yourself in that same spot of sheer desperation), I have resorted to cheating. I have alluded to my new favourite kitchen toy on a number of occasions already and will now reveal that it is a Thermomix. I will write about it some more on a seperate occasion because a gadget that is good enough for me to take it along when I go on holidays certainly deserves its own post... but for this purpose, let me tell you that since I bought it I have never messed up an hollandaise again - I simply put in all the ingredients and at the touch of
a button two buttons and the turn of a knob, I have a perfect sauce in just 6 minutes flat! No whisking, no aching arms and certainly no split sauce!
Other sauce recipes on thepassionatecook:
Portwine & orange sauce ... with venison (September 2006)
Blueberry sauce ... with pear pancakes (October 2006)
Portwine & stilton sauce... with pork fillet (May 2004)
Red wine & shallot sauce... for venison or steak (February 2007)
Easy sherry sauce... equally good with pork, beef or chicken (January 2007)
Red onion & apple sauce... with pork (October 2004)
Frothy cider chaudeau... with tempura-fried apple slices (November 2004)
Poached egg with sauce hollandaise on green asparagus & rye bread
4 slices good quality sourdough rye bread (when I don't make my own, I can get Poilâne in local supermarkets)
200 g thin green asparagus stalks
For the sauce hollandaise:
4 egg yolks
125 g butter
salt, white pepper - to taste
Depending on the thickness of your asparagus, you might have to peel it a little first. Blanch it in boiling salt water until tender, but still retaining a bite. Refresh immediately in ice-cold water to retain its vibrant green colour.
Prepare the hollandaise:
In a glass bowl over steaming water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water), combine all the ingredients and whisk thoroughly until the sauce cooks and thickens. Keep warm.
(Thermomix users: place all ingredients in the bowl, cook 6 minutes at 70 C, speed 2. If you prefer your sauce rather thin, add 50 ml of water at the beginning or thin to your liking by adding hot water afterwards)
Assemble the plates: toast the bread, then put one slice on every plate, pile some asparagus stalks on top - make sure to create a level surface for the egg.
Poach the eggs. In a shallow pot, bring water with a splash of cider vinegar to a rolling boil. When I prepare a number of eggs at the same time, I like to use salad rings to keep the eggs separate. Simply place the rings in the boiling water, break each egg into a separate ring and poach for 2 - 3 minutes. Tip out the hot water (retaining the rings in place), then quickly fill the pot with cold water to stop the eggs cooking any further. Using a slotted spoon, lift the eggs out immediately so they don't go cold. Drain on kitchen towel before placing onto the asparagus.
Drizzle with sauce hollandaise to your liking.