11/04/2011 12:04 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Hollandaise

Hollandaise, a rich egg-and-butter sauce, has a reputation for being fussy, but it's actually quite simple to make once you understand the basic technique involved. Chef Scott Swartz of The Culinary Institute of America begins the process with 2 egg yolks, which he says will make enough sauce for 8 to 10 people. He adds the yolks to a glass bowl set over simmering water, and whisks the yolks together with 2 tablespoons of water. (The water is necessary to help with the emulsion and keeps the eggs from scrambling.) He whisks the mixture constantly over the heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the yolks thicken and form a ribbon when raised from the bowl. He then begins to add melted butter. (Traditionally, the sauce is made with clarified butter, but melted butter works just fine.) Removing the bowl from the heat, he ladles in 6 ounces of butter, a little at a time, while whisking constantly. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, he adds a pinch of salt and cayenne, then a squeeze of lemon juice. It's now ready: Use it for eggs Benedict, asparagus, or filet mignon.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

HI, I'm Chef Scott Swartz from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm here to show you this kitchen basic: how to make hollandaise sauce.

All a hollandaise sauce is made up of is egg yolks, butter, salt, cayenne, and a little bit of lemon juice. It's very, very simple.

The first thing we need to do is separate our egg yolks. We're going to crack our egg a little bit and separate the whites out. The easiest way, I find, is shell to shell; you can separate them in your hand, you can buy an egg separator - any of those things work. We're going to start with two yolks. This hollandaise sauce would be enough for a brunch for eight people. We're going to do two yolks with six ounces of butter; your ratio for a hollandaise sauce is three ounces of butter to one yolk. Traditionally, chefs make hollandaise sauce with clarified butter; we're going to use whole butter.

I have my two yolks in the bowl, and I'm going to add a tablespoon of water to this. The tablespoon of water is going to help create my emulsion between my eggs and my butter, and it's also going to prevent me from scrambling my eggs. I need my pan of water at a simmer, and I'm going to place this into a double boiler. I take my whisk and whisk this together. I want this to get thick, and the important part in this is I want to make sure my egg yolks are cooked. In whipping our egg yolk, the most important thing is constantly moving it; if I'm not constantly mixing it, what i end up getting is scrambled eggs. For two yolks, you should only have to whisk it for about five to eight minutes.

I'm looking for it to get thick; the term we use is I want it to make a ribbon. The idea is that when I lift it up, you can see a ribbon in the surface of the egg yolks in the bowl. I'm almost there; it's starting to get thick enough for me. At this point I'll actually turn off my flame and just let the heat from the water finish cooking my yolks, so I don't scramble my eggs. And if you take a look at my eggs now, it makes a nice thick ribbon. That's the stage where I want to start adding my butter.

Like I said earlier, traditionally it's clarified butter we'd use; what I've got here is drawn butter or melted butter. The advantage of this is there's more flavor. Like I said, I want to do six ounces in here, and I have a two-ounce ladle, so I'm going to measure that way. I take my butter and I slowly add it to my bowl while I'm whisking, and I try to drip my butter right into the center of my whisk. This is the most important part. If I pour my butter in too fast, my hollandaise is going to separate and I'm going to have a bowl of scrambled eggs and butter separate, not a lovely hollandaise sauce.

My hollandaise is finished. It's got six ounces of butter in it. I'm looking for it to be completely smooth, no streaks of fat in it, no scrambled egg. Now to season this, I'm going to add a little bit of salt, a little pinch of cayenne pepper - hollandaise should be a little bit spicy - and then a little bit of lemon juice. The lemon juice is going to be some acid to help cut all that fat in there. This little simple two-yolk hollandaise is plenty for eight or ten people to put on their dish. To finish my hollandaise sauce, you can see the consistency of how it pours; you can pour it over eggs benedict, asparagus, filet mignon.

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