Homemade Hollandaise sauce is better than sex. OK. It's not, but it's awfully damn close. Don't be distracted by the little packets of powder in the spice aisle to which you "just add water." That may work for Jello, but a real hollandaise is slowly simmered egg yolks into which you force feed a stick and a half of butter. It takes your basic asparagus and turns her into a porn star. You can lightly steam and salt asparagus spears any day of the week, but every once in awhile dab on some real hollandaise and watch her morph into a centerfold. Oh baby. It's a decadence you can taste. Every mouthful is succulent and smooth, and it will leave you weak with desire--hungry for more of that velvet cream. Whoever thought that gluttony and lust could be so inextricably linked? It is pure evil, but if you're going to sin, you might as well make your priest blush when you confess.
There is no safe sex here. See you doctor before you partake to make sure your cholesterol levels and blood pressure are in check. If not, keep the lipitor handy, but don't wholly deprive yourself. Once you realize what a pain in the butt hollandaise is to make, you won't want to do it often anyway.
Hollandaise--copied (almost) whole cloth from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
1. 3 eggs yolks, which means you have to separate the yolk from the white. It is actually very easy. Crack an egg and without spilling the yolk, let the white drain into a bowl by using each half of the egg as a little cup into which you keep transferring the yolk.
2. Beat the eggs together until sticky, and then add about 1 Tb each of water and lemon juice and a big pinch of salt.
3. Melt about 1 and a half sticks of butter. Yep. Butter.
4. Now it gets tricky. Add a pat of unmelted butter into the egg mixture, and place on low heat, all the while stirring the egg yolks. If the heat is too high, the eggs will scramble, and even though Julia asserts that you can quickly plunge the pan into cold water to stop the cooking, I remain skeptical. I mean, really, how do you unscramble eggs?
5. Once the eggs just start to thicken and form a light cream, add another pat of butter. Turn off the heat.
6. Get out a wire whisk and constantly stirring with one hand, slowly pour the melted butter in a few drops to a teaspoon at a time. It takes forever. At some point, however, the concoction will start to meld into a thick cream. It will look like almost like cake frosting. STOP HERE.
7. If you get greedy and try to add more butter, the concoction will start to separate, and then you have something that looks like bits of fat floating in a pool of grease. Definitely not a porn star--more like an aged Hollywood starlet with multiple face lifts that still thinks she's a porn star. Not pretty.
8. If this happens, Julia has a whole section of the recipe that should be simply labelled "Hollandaise 9-1-1." Although I won't recreate it here in its entirety, if the sauce separates, take a glass bowl and heat it by rinsing it with hot water. Add a tad of lemon juice and about a tablespoon of the separated sauce. Beat the hell out of it until it thickens. Add more separated sauce and do the same thing. Keep adding the separated sauce into the bowl until you've managed to reconstitute it. Once you've gone through this drill one time, you'll curse that you ever thought to add more butter during the initial step. If it doesn't work, do it again. I once went through this technique 3 times, but ultimately prevailed and brought back my Hollandaise as if from the dead.
9. Julia claims that you can freeze the sauce or stick it in a refrigerator for a day or two. I've never tried to do this. Actually, by this point I'm typically so frazzled that I've managed to pull it off that I just want to get the damn sauce on the asparagus and be done with it. But just like sex, don't rush it. Take the sauce, still in the pan, and set it in a bowl of warm water. This should keep it warm and fluid.
10. Pour some wine. Make yourself a medium rare steak. Cook your asparagus--get them crisp and bright green. Slather with hollandaise. Life is to be lived, so every once in awhile you are allowed to treat yourself. When the meal is done and you are flush and sated, go ahead--have a cigarette.