(rumors have it that Hollandaise is not really French but Dutch) then, consensus indicate that Hollandaise is incorporated to sauce status when venerable Cuisiner des Roi Pierre La Verenne calls it "mother of all sauces." The truth is that Hollandaise harks back to the genius of Escoffier. He is to French cuisine what Descartes is to French philosophy (Escofier's Hollandaise uses a reduction --me neither).
I learned my Hollandaise via Abdel, a Francophile Lebanese cook I met while cooking at this Greek Diner I've talked to you about on 95 and Broadway in NY. He was a decent chef, escaping the civil war in Lebanon, but too old to take BS from a Greek ignoramus. Abdel left in less than a month and I took his place and changed the Diner into a Dominican/Haitian/Cuban/Greek/ dive (in NY the neighborhood's ethnicity dictates your cuisine). Just when the place was full of patrons, Carmen made my life miserable and I took a TA at Rutgers fleeing from the crisis (this is when sweet the spirit of philosophy appeared for the first time: Triff, it's me, Sophia. I see what you need).
Hollandaise is the story of the evolution in emulsion sauces (i.e, mayonnaise, aïoli, rémoulade, vincent and béarnaise). The old classical Hollandaise almost qualifies as mayonnaise. My version is suited for our self-conscious, fitness-obsessed times: lighter & delicate.
3 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 6-8 ounces of soft unsalted butter, 1 dash cayenne pèpper, salt to taste, pepper to taste.
Hollandaise is a temperamental woman, both in beauty and unpredictability. She demands undivided attention and self-confidence. Why? Emulsified butter sauces sense our human fears and break on us -if you let them, that is. Let's start with whisking egg yolks, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan for lemony happiness. If the emulsion breaks it still gives you a pass at redemption. Whisk the broken sauce back into a clean teaspoon of water and you’ll have it back in moments (as they say: it faut avoir foi en soi).
this should be the consistency of your Hollandaise
Back to the saucepan: keep whisking tirelessly until the emulsion gets thicker and pale. Now set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan. Careful: at this stage the eggs tend to overcook. Off the burner, but don't stop whisking! Then back to low-to-moderate heat for a few seconds, and then back on. If, by chance, the eggs seem to congeal too fast, set the pan in the bowl of cold water to cool the bottom, then back on whisking. Now the eggs become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.
Now comes the art: By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. The emulsion begins to form and you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened into a consistently light texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Taste it, add some more lemon (the sauce should be distinctly lemony), and add a pinch of cayenne. C' est ça!