Sauces, Sauces, Sauces!
End of week two: feeling tired, and a bit disappointed (okay, maybe a lot disappointed) in my block because we didn’t make eggs benedict. People were just staring blankly into space, and when Chef Emma asked how many people actually wanted to make warm breakfast for ourselves, only three students raised their hands. What!?!? What are all these other people doing here?
It made me think more about the fact that I am here to soak up and learn everything I possibly can in order to become an accomplished professional chef. I get up in the morning, and after I get over how early it is and how tired I am, I look forward to doing my best in class and learn about EVERYTHING, and especially TASTING everything. Why pass up eggs benedict that I made myself???
Here is some clarified butter for the hollandaise.
So anyway, we had continental-style breakfast from the cafeteria (like every other morning). It’s good, but it’s not eggs benedict. I had a ham and cheese croissant that was pretty good! In class, we did end up making hollandaise, and it was really fun!
Hollandaise is a difficult sauce to make because it breaks very easily. You start by beating egg yolk, water, and some kind of acid (in our case a hollandaise reduction made from white wine vinegar and shallots) together until it’s frothy. Then, you add low heat and keep beating until you see that it has tripled in size, become pale yellow, and make ribbons on the bottom of the pan (ribbons kind of look like the foam sticks a little bit to the bottom). You have to take it on and off the heat constantly to regulate the temperature. You should be able to put your hand on the side of the pot.
Only then do you start adding the butter (clarified butter in our case) in a small, slow stream. Through all this, you have to make sure to keep up whisking (adding energy to sauce) and not let it get too hot, otherwise the egg protein will coagulate. Also, if you add too much oil to start, you will never be able to get a nice, smooth sauce – the oil will pool instead of becoming emulsified with the water-soluble ingredients.
Because I did everything right, I got my hollandaise right the first time!!!! It was hard work, but definitely tasted awesome! You have to remember to add acid at the end to cut through the fat. We added lemon juice.
We also made lots of other sauces this week, including all of the other mother sauces, like Escoffier-style tomato sauce, veloute, bechamel, espagnole/brown sauce, and of course, hollandaise. From these five so-called “mother sauces”, you can make any other small sauces. So, for example, if you have a brown sauce with your steak, chances are a brown sauce was used as the basis for it, and it was reduced and seasoned according to the dish’s ingredients and flavors. Learning about the sauces was so much fun, and getting this classical French training in cooking theory and food science makes me understand flavor and technique so much better.
Hopefully the group I’m in will pick up some steam as we head into our third week. We’ll have final exams after that week, which I’m already a bit nervous about. But I think I’ll do okay. I’ve been handling myself pretty well, considering this is only my second full week here.