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Special of the day: Intro to Classic Sauces and Helpful Hollandaise How-tos

Classic Hollandaise on Seared Scallops

          A shared love of cooking and thirst for knowledge had my mom and me jumping at the chance to take a cooking class on classic sauces hosted by Executive Chef Richard Schafer at the Meadow Lark Country Club on a recent Sunday afternoon. How fortunate we felt to be the beneficiaries of the wealth of knowledge Schafer shared throughout his class.

From the beginning, Schafer said he has been fond of French cooking, and it is from French cooking that we get the five “Mother Sauces” which include Béchamel, Velouté, Hollandaise, Espagnole and Sauce Tomate.

Schafer’s favorite cookbook, La Repertoire de la Cuisine, is not a collection of recipes but rather titles with lists of ingredients, which is how he cooks, so it came as no surprise that he did not hand out a collection of recipes to accompany his cooking class. Not to worry, though, I was at the ready with my pen and notebook scribbling helpful hints and tricks of the trade as I fast as I could!

Chef Richard began with Béchamel, firing up one of the many portable butane burners at hand and explaining the thickening process. Béchamel starts with a roux made of equal parts of fat and flour, whether you use butter or canola oil or another variety of oil.

For this sauce, he used 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. When adding liquid to a roux, you want to remember the rule of opposites, he said. If you have hot roux, add cold liquid, and vice versa, if you have cold roux (roux can be made ahead and refrigerated), add hot liquid.

Cook the butter and the flour, stirring occasionally until you smell “nuttiness”, Schafer said.  For every tablespoon of butter and flour in your roux, you can add 8-10 ounces of liquid. Slowly simmer the sauce and add ½ onion with a bay leaf skewered onto the onion with two cloves. Schafer likes to cook the sauce at least 15 minutes to get rid of the starchy taste of the flour. At this point, you could add cheese and make a Mornay sauce.

Schafer then demonstrated making a Velouté sauce which is made with roux plus stock. It can be based on whatever you are cooking, he said. He made this one with 2 tablespoons bacon fat + 2 tablespoons flour.  When adding the stock, Schafer clarified the difference between stock which is made by cooking bones and broth, made by cooking meat.

Schafer recommended a product called Knorr Demi for the home cook. It comes in chicken or beef and would be similar to the demi glace he makes in his kitchen. After adding the stock to the roux, Schafer said you could add cream, simmer and reduce the sauce to make a cream sauce for chicken breast. Then add herbs to finish the sauce. It is done with you can draw your finger down the back of a spoon coated with the sauce, and it does not draw in on itself.

You can add anything to Velouté, Schafer said: sundried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, flavored vinegars, or shallots and white wine. Finished Velouté sauce can be made ahead and frozen in ice cube trays to make sauce cubes for later use.

As for Hollandaise sauce, Schafer said that people are deathly afraid of making it, and he’s really not sure why. Schafer spoiled his kids for years by making Eggs Benedict every Sunday he had off of work, so he has had lots of practice making it. He’s made it over campfires and even on the engine block of a car

Schafer offered lots of helpful how-tos on Hollandaise for the home cook.

  • Crack eggs on a flat surface, not on the edge of a bowl. You will get a better opening and the egg shell won’t shatter.
  • Egg yolks and butter should be at the same temperature when you start (about 105-110 degrees)
  • Decide on a direction in which to whisk and only whisk that way (either clockwise or counterclockwise) to ensure that the emulsion will hold and not separate.
  • Speed is of the essence when making Hollandaise- keep whisking the egg yolks and butter until completely incorporated.
  • You can add hot water to thin your finished Hollandaise or add lemon juice to make it more tart.
  • Squeezing just a bit more lemon juice at the end will help bring the protein together in the sauce.
  • Keep the finished Hollandaise at about 100 degrees and it will hold for 3-4 hours. (Keep it on the back of the stove or in a carafe preheated with boiling water.)

Classic Hollandaise on Seared Scallops

Classic Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

by Meadow Lark Country Club Executive Chef Richard Schafer

Whisk 3 egg yolks over a water bath until thickened.

Whisk in 8 ounces unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Stir every possible area in.

Add the juice of ½ lemon and whisk in thoroughly.

Add 5 drops Tabasco, 1 tablespoon hot water, a dash of Kosher salt and whisk until completely incorporated.

Squeeze a bit more lemon juice in at the end and whisk thoroughly.

Variations on Classic Hollandaise sauce include béarnaise- with shallots, tarragon and vinegar, Browned Butter Hollandaise which can be served over fish and Mousseline, which is Hollandaise with whipped heavy cream broiled on fish or chicken.

Espanole sauce involves a lengthy process. First you make a mire poix (Dice: 1 carrot/1 stalk celery/1/2 onion) that you brown in fat. (You could use oil. He used bacon fat.) You then add 1 tablespoon flour, 2 cups beef stock, ¼ cup red wine, diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms. Simmer 20 minutes. This sauce works on all dark meats.

Alternatives to flour as a thickener in sauces include:

  • Cornstarch- clearer, shinier, works better for glazes than flour
  • Arrowroot- 3 times stronger than flour, completely neutral-flavored, great with fruit for pie fillings, shiny and natural-tasting, also gluten-free and fat-free

When adding flour to thicken a sauce, make a slurry with water. For example, mix 1 tablespoon arrowroot + 2 tablespoons water, and stir until it is the consistency of milk. Whisk the slurry into the stock. The sauce is done as soon as you whisk it in. You can strain the Espagnole sauce and use it as a base sauce.

I could hardly wait to get into the kitchen and try Chef Richard’s Hollandaise Sauce (and see if it did actually hold for 3-4 hours!). On night number one, I decided to make Béarnaise, starting with a reduction of vinegar, shallots and tarragon and then proceeding as directed in his Classic Hollandaise recipe. I must admit it required a fair amount of whisking to incorporate all of that butter, but I was determined and remembered to whisk in one and only one direction. My vigilance paid off with a silky smooth beautiful Béarnaise that never separated and served as an amazing accompaniment to the Grilled Tenderloin Kabobs we enjoyed for dinner.

The next day I decided to try the Classic Hollandaise Sauce recipe as a sauce for Seared Scallops over Lemon Orzo, garnished with tiny chive blossoms I spied peeking out of the peppermint forest in my yard. Once again the sauce recipe was foolproof and kept for hours on the back of my stove without separating. These were proving to be recipes to clip and keep close by this summer as a wonderful way to dress up simply grilled meat, fish and seafood.

                With thanks to Chef Richard Schafer for the sharing his expertise on and recipes for sauces, I give you this week’s  Special of the day: Intro to Classic Sauces and Helpful Hollandaise How-tos with recipes for Classic Hollandaise Sauce on Seared Scallops and Béarnaise for Grilled Tenderloin Kabobs. Enjoy!

Food photography by Sydne George.

Recipes based on Chef Richard Schafer’s Classic Sauces Class, Meadow Lark Country Club, May 21, 2013.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

by Meadow Lark Country Club Executive Chef Richard Schafer

Whisk 3 egg yolks over a water bath until thickened.

Whisk in 8 ounces unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Stir every possible area in.

Add the juice of ½ lemon and whisk in thoroughly.

Add 5 drops Tabasco, 1 tablespoon hot water, a dash of Kosher salt and whisk until completely incorporated.

Squeeze a bit more lemon juice in at the end and whisk thoroughly.

Serve warm over Seared Scallops on Lemon Orzo, garnished with Chive Blossoms.

Béarnaise Sauce on Grilled Tenderloin Kabobs

Béarnaise Sauce

Recipe by Sydne George, based on Chef Richard’s Classic Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Bring ¼ cup dry white wine, ¼ cup white wine vinegar, ¼ cup finely chopped shallots and 1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Simmer and reduce until the volume of the liquid in the pan is 2 tbsp.

Whisk 3 egg yolks over a water bath until thickened.

Whisk vinegar reduction into thickened egg yolks.

Whisk in 8 ounces unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Stir every possible area in.

Add the juice of ½ lemon and whisk in thoroughly.

Add 1 tablespoon hot water, a dash of Kosher salt and whisk until completely incorporated.

Squeeze a bit more lemon juice in at the end and whisk thoroughly.

Serve warm over Grilled Tenderloin Kabobs.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.