23 April 2010

Brunchy Joy

Ever have an ingredient that you love so much, you just want to use it every day til it runs out? Me, too. Especially when it comes to fresh produce; we had asparagus in our meals four nights in a row last week. This week, I picked up two 2-pound bags of Klamath Pearl baby potatoes on sale at the health food store, and now when I'm not eating them, I'm dreaming up recipes for them.

This morning I was in a brunchy sort of mood. This happens to me fairly often, but today is grey and chilly and the baby and I snoozed much of the morning away together. It was 1:30 before I got around to eating my first meal, but I saw no reason to miss breakfast just because I'd had a lazy morning. Okay, really, I just wanted eggs. And potatoes. And hollandaise sauce, which I'd only tried to make once before and was a spectacular failure at the time.

The thing that's so scary about hollandaise sauce, to me, is that there are about 813 billion ways of making it, and everyone claims theirs is the classic, perfect, awesomest method. Even the ingredients, which I thought were pretty much de rigeur, vary from recipe to recipe; some use vinegar, others lemon juice, some use both. Some use water, some don't. Some use cayenne, others use paprika. How is a hollandaise novice supposed to know which is the right path?

So when I actually succeeded in making something that both looked and tasted like hollandaise sauce this afternoon, I was ridiculously pleased with myself. I'm not saying it's the only perfect no-substitutes way to do it, but hey, it worked. And it wasn't nearly as hard as my first failed attempt; it also used a completely different method, thanks to http://pinoycook.net/hollandaise-sauce/.

I also made a slightly fancier version of my normal homefries recipe, topped the homefries with two eggs, and then freakin' slathered the whole thing in hollandaise for a pile of brunchy joy. Here's how it all worked:

Ann's Homefries (the marvelous expanding recipe)

~ 1 lb potatoes per person; either russet potatoes, diced largish, or baby potatoes sliced into 1/4 inch rounds.
2 cloves garlic per person, minced
1 small shallot per person (fancy!), minced, or 1/3 white or yellow onion, diced
1 Tbs butter per person
salt, pepper, oregano and cayenne to taste; I use about 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/8 tsp cayenne per serving

Heat a large saucepan or cast-iron skillet over medium and melt the butter. Add the garlic & onions/shallots and let cook ~3 minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add potatoes, stir to coat, add spices and stir again. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and set a timer for 20 minutes. Stir about every 5 minutes; reduce the heat to medium-low halfway through.

Test with a fork when the timer goes off; depending on how thick the potatoes are, you may need to cook them a bit longer. Turn off the heat and leave the cover on while you fry your eggs & make the hollandaise sauce, to keep the homefries warm.

I'm just going to assume you know how to fry an egg. I put mine in a frying pan over medium heat just before starting the hollandaise sauce so they were ready at about the same time, although I turned the heat off on the eggs (left-handed, so I wouldn't stop whisking the sauce) after about 7 minutes.

So, moving on to the piece de resistance...

Hollandaise Sauce

The tricks to not screwing up hollandaise sauce, in my opinion, are to get all your ingredients assembled, measured and ready at hand, and read through the recipe a few times so you know what you're doing before you start. Pausing in the middle of the process is not conducive to a happy hollandaise sauce. Make this as the very last step of your meal, because it should be served immediately. Also, this recipe is not recommended if you're prone to carpal tunnel, because you need to whisk constantly for about 10 minutes.

1/3 c butter, cut into 3 chunks
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs warm water
~1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
~1/8 tsp salt (ditto)

Put about 2 inches of water in a pot; make sure it's low enough that your double boiler isn't touching the water. (If you don't have a double boiler, just put a heatproof bowl on top of the pot.) Heat on high, covered with the double boiler, until the water's about to boil, then reduce to low so it's just simmering.

Put one chunk of butter in the double boiler. When half of it's melted, add the two egg yolks and begin whisking nonstop. Once the butter's fully melted, add the second chunk of butter, still whisking nonstop. Once that butter has melted, add the third, and keep whisking til it melts.

Slowly pour in the lemon juice, whisking away, until it's all blended in. Slowly pour in the water, still whisking, and finally whisk in the cayenne and salt. Remove from heat and serve nownownow.

I've heard of hollandaise being served over broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, poached eggs, crabcakes topped with poached eggs, potatoes... I think your only limit is your imagination. Anything that would benefit from a creamy lemony sauce is a go. I bet it would be awesome on grilled salmon. I, for one, quite enjoyed the potatoes-eggs-hollandaise combo. If I could have added anything to my brunchy joy, it would have been some smoked salmon layered underneath the eggs and fresh dill to top it all off. But it was still quite tasty as pictured.

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