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Life’s Lesson N° 2: Hollandaise Sauce Can Smell Fear.

When I was growing up in Springfield, Missouri, until the sixth grade, I could tell our family was a bit “different.” Different because we had “weird” things in our refrigerator like capers. Yes, to have capers in your refrigerator in the 70s in middle America deemed you weird. Years later, when I was in high school in Los Angeles, one of my best friends was the chef, Giada DeLaurentiis (we are not friends anymore due to the fact that I made out with her brother). Anyway, I knew Giada and I were going to be good friends because her family was “culinary weird” like my family. Case in point: One day we were sitting on the lawn of our high school having lunch. Most everyone brought their lunches from home. Giada opens her lunch sack and casually starts to eat an orange. A weird orange. All of the girls screamed, “Oh my God, Giada, what is that!” Giada looks at all of us and says, “A blood orange, you fools.” Just as my capers were weird in the 70s, her blood orange in the 80s was just as weird. I definitely knew we were destined to be friends.

So, the same with Hollandaise sauce. This sauce is as normal in my household as chicken fried steak with gravy. However, I know that not everyone knows what it is...But you should. The most common use of Hollandaise sauce is for Eggs Benedict. Yes, the yellow sauce. It is also traditionally used on asparagus, leeks and poached fish.

Hollandaise sauce has been documented since the 1500s in a Dutch cookbook and is thought to have been brought to France by the Huguenots. The basic components of a Hollandaise sauce are an emulsion of egg yolks and liquid butter seasoned with lemon juice, salt, white pepper or cayenne. The consistency is smooth, creamy, opaque and buttery.

What I find interesting about the Hollandaise sauce is that it is one of the five French haute cuisine mother sauces. It is the building block of other sauces…
Sauce Bearnaise is a variation of Hollandaise sauce replacing the lemon juice with a strained vinegar and adding shallots, fresh chevril, fresh tarragon and crushed peppercorns.
Sauce Café de Paris is béarnaise with curry powder added.
Sauce Paloise is a version of béarnaise with mint substituted for tarragon.
Sauce au Vin Blanc (for fish) is produced by adding a reduction of white wine and fish stock to hollandaise.
Sauce Bavaroise is hollandaise with added cream, horseradish, and thyme.
Sauce Crème Fleurette is hollandaise with crème fraîche added.
Sauce Dijon, also known as Sauce Moutarde or Sauce Girondine, is hollandaise with Dijon mustard.
Sauce Mousseline, also known as Sauce Chantilly, is produced by folding whipped cream into hollandaise.

See! Isn’t that totally interesting! By the way, Robert Farrar Capon suggested that Hollandaise sauce “is no less a marvel than the Gothic arch, the computer chip or a Bach Fugue.” I have to agree except for that part about Bach Fugue because I have no idea what that is.

Hollandaise sauce is not complicated… It just requires some finesse. Like they say, “It’s all in the wrist.”

Let’s take a look at some secrets of Hollandaise sauce from the experts…
Mind the temperature! Too much heat and the eggs will curdle. Too little heat and an emulsion will not form.
Use a bain marie. If you don’t know what that is click HERE.
Use clarified butter.
Use kosher salt.
Only use a metal whisk. Keep raising the whisk to incorporate air into the eggs for a fluffy emulsion.
The Barefoot Contessa uses a blender for her hollandaise sauce so if the Barefoot Contessa does it, so shall I.

Okay now for the recipes…
 Hollandaise Sauce by SaltedTV. Video and Recipe HERE.
Hollandaise Sauce by Julia Child. Video HERE

Hollandaise Sauce by the Barefoot Contessa. Video HERE.

Voilà! Hollandaise sauce. Mastered.

*Something you don’t know about me? We are still in the French Alps and yes, I am still hiding from my husband’s family. I was forced to go to the dining room today for lunch. Gracie was forced to go as well. Usually I can get away with, “I need to stay in bed because I have ALS” but that wasn’t working today. Gracie also said that if she had to go to the dining room, well then, so did I. So off we went. Gracie eats only 2% of anything served to her at David’s family’s house. She’s not exactly a fan of foie gras, frog legs, stinky cheese, strange cuts of beef, or foreign vegetables. Gracie likes American food and by American I mean burritos. Exactly 3 nights ago, Christmas evening, Gracie threw a hissy fit because we did not have my mother’s turkey for Christmas dinner. She said it was all that she wanted and all that she asked for in life and I did not deliver. Seeing as I had just overcome a respiratory illness that nearly killed me, I was not up for teaching my caregivers how to make turkey so I decided that we were going to have smoked salmon on blinis with capers, shallots, crème fraîche and a squeeze of lemon for Christmas dinner even though I know it’s basically an hors d’oeuvre. In my respiratory illness delirium, I forgot that Gracie doesn’t eat any of that so poor little Gracie had to order Domino’s pizza for Christmas dinner. Swear to God. She will never forgive me. So, today’s lunch with David’s family… It was announced that we would be having turkey. Turkey! That is exactly what Gracie wanted! Thank you God, there’s turkey for Gracie! I could see that Gracie was getting rather excited that she would be getting her Christmas turkey. David’s brother brought out the platter of sliced turkey and set it down on the table. I saw all the blood drain from Gracie’s face. Yes, it was turkey but on top of that delicious turkey was something else. I knew Gracie was too shy and too polite to ask, “What the fuck is on top of that turkey?” I was too shocked to ask, “What the fuck is on top of that turkey?” David has lived with Gracie and I long enough to know that there was a slight problem. Not a problem for him but definitely a problem for Gracie. I understand enough French to know that David asked what was on top of the turkey. I only heard one word, “agneau.” That’s lamb. As Gracie described it, “Hot pink raw baby lamb.” I thought Gracie was going to faint. She politely told everyone at the table that she was a vegetarian. Liar, Gracie, you just ate a Burger King whopper yesterday in the car. Somehow weird French horsemeat from Burger King doesn’t bother her but raw hot pink lamb on top of turkey does. I’ve been laughing for five hours. She is currently at Subway sandwich shop with David. By the way, if I hear one more time, “this is how we do it in France” I am going to burn this house down. Stay tuned…


  1. YOU know how I make my H. SAUCE!!!!!!!!!!Cause I bought YOUR BOOKS!!!I made it for CHRISTMAS morning over EGGS BENEDICT.........A SUCCESS!I used the tea towel method no olive oil and IT WORKED GREAT!THANK YOU!
    Funny story friends came to dinner on the 26th with a small box of capers.........from an island close to SICILY........the husband who is 100 % ITALIAN asked my 100% Italian if I used CAPERS!!!!!!!!!!!!OF COURSE, we use CAPERS!!
    Eleanor,the people YOU KNOW and YOUR STORIES Are THE BEST............someone needs to send this to on to GIADA that is if she isNOT following YOU already for TIPS!!!!!!!!!

  2. Gosh I LOVE your posts! And I have been so happy that you have been writing almost every day. I LOVED LOVED LOVED your post on Bunny! Something you don't know about me….. a few times a day (maybe more) I click on your blog and I hit the refresh button a few times just in case!! I get sooo excited when you have a new post and I gotta sit and relish the reading. I hear ya on the "this is how we do it". I have my Italian mother in law that HATES every ounce of me here for 5 weeks!!! She doesn't speak a word of English and my husband says it is best I don't understand her! She comes once an year and because I am I do not parent like the Italians, and wipe my husbands ass like the old school Italians I am hated! Anyway…. thanks for the blog updates! Love them! Love you!

  3. I have been reading every bit of your blog since Janet from The Gardener's Cottage introduced you. You are so damn funny and such a great writer. I've enjoyed all of it! What would any of us do in this world without a giant portion of humor served three times daily and for snacks?
    Shelley in California

  4. Well since you haven't taken my advice to have your own reality show, I am now thinking that this week with you in France will be my blog version of "Downton Abby" . Lamb on the turkey?…thanks for the heads up!

  5. ellie you are such a good mom. i worked as a chef for 10 years and taught my sons nothing. nothing. christmastime can be so hard. pretty soon you will be back in your beautiful paris home yelling at bunny with everything you've got. x

  6. May God give you and Gracie strength. WTF is up with putting half raw lamb on a turkey??? It's as ridiculous (and gross) as Turducken or Ballotine.
    Jo xx

  7. Sorry about the "this is how we do it "crap.My husbands family were a bit like that sometimes
    .I started to cook as time went by.Now there is only me in the kitchen mil has given up and sil doesn't cook.
    So now I can say "THIS IS HOW I DO IT )

  8. Go Gracie Go! I remember my mother-in-law serving a dish I absolutely detest for a Sunday lunch. They lived a distance away so we (conveniently!) needed to leave soon after lunch was over. Immediately upon getting in the car my partner asked (without any prompting), "Burger King or McDonalds?" It was just priceless-just what I needed to offset the small bit I ate (smothered with something else on the plate) to be polite. I could NOT have eaten the raw baby lamb in any event, smothered or not! In your defence we do often have appetiser items for dinner so that doesn't seem such an awful thing, but perhaps not when you have your heart set on turkey..... How soon can you leave this den of torture? Hang in there!

  9. Ellie, I swear you are telepathic! These last few days I have been craving eggs benedict, (and it's hard to get them in my hip-but-tiny- Northwest Seaport town). And while I don't really have the energy to make them, I thought I'd give it a go and try anyway....and you do this post on Hollandaise...I am over the moon!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    So why do we need lamb on top of turkey????!!!! I have to empathize with Gracie...I think I'd howl and cry, and not be nearly so polite as your sweet daughter...Thank God for Subway in France, (who knew???).
    You are hysterical, deserve a movie-deal, (though, I bet you'd prefer a "Paris Housewives Show," of your own,) and would keep us all in stitches.
    Something you don't know about me: My father was a hippee artist and in the late sixties and seventies he would take me out as an eight year old to the dance clubs in Manhattan, (yes, bars let kids in if they were accompanied by parents) and we'd stay out till I couldn't dance anymore and was falling asleep. This was fairly common among my peers, (who also had hippee artist or writer or musician parents). Then I grew up and left New York and found out not many other kids had this kind of activity in their lives. I also thought Labor Day was in honor of pregnant women until I was in high school, but that's another story.
    Love and Hugs,
    Sabrina in Port Townsend

  10. You are toooo funny!! I have two girls in their 20's and they majored in "Holiday Hysterics." Glad to hear it's not just an American thing. Happy New Year, dear bff. xx

  11. Ina Gartens receipe for Bernaise is perfect! Works every time. I made it Christmas Eve for our filet of beef and then had to make it again the next day for the leftovers. It's even good cold because it's Bernaise butter.

  12. Glad to know that "fear" is what is wrong with my infrequent attempts at Hollandaise--next attempt I'll try loud rock music as I go. Poor Gracie--I completely understand. I have an adult child who sometimes reacts this way. "Vegetarian" is a great save. Blessings. Mary

  13. I love lamb ( if one is greek its required) but not that way....baaah...xo

  14. I don't even know you, but I love you. My husband and sons always wonder what I'm reading when I'm giggling at my laptop. You are interesting, irreverent, and strong, three of the best things to be in this world. Thank you for putting some of yourself out into the world so I can enjoy. Your blog is my favorite reading material -- and I'm an insanely prolific reader. Love the cooking lessons! Funny AND useful.

  15. Elllie - When I read your blog, I am instantly transported to places, people and situations that are totally 'foreign' to me.... better than any reality show I've ever watched. Please continue sharing your fascinating life with us - your posts make my day! Hugs to you. OoOo

  16. You bring joy and laughter each time I read your blog. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    But I do feel sad that you are hiding from the family, but maybe I should be sad that you couldn't hide at dinner. (smile)

  17. I seriously hope someone is working on your screen play... thank you for all your posts!! They make me laugh, cry, spit out my latte, and have made me open my eyes on a daily basis. Xo

  18. But please Jesus. don't cast Julia Roberts as you.

  19. Have read many blogs in the net but have never come across such a well written blog. Good work keep it up.