AIN’T NOTHIN’ LIKE THE REAL THING
And this sure ain’t nothing like the real thing. But I never knew that, and it’s delicious, so who am I to sully a wonderful family recipe for hollandaise? A recipe passed down from my grandmother, who apparently did not like to struggle in the kitchen.
When I was a child my mother would swoon over her artichokes with hollandaise. It was a true treat when these giant unopened buds would show up, accompanied by my “grandmother’s special recipe” for hollandaise. “It’s so hard, and so temperamental,” my mother would whine while stirring it frantically. “You have to make sure it doesn’t separate, It’s so difficult. But I swear it is worth all the trouble!”, and she would sigh like she was remembering a Rudolph Valentino love scene from an old movie she saw in the 1930’s.
DISCOVERY OF THE TRICKERY
She sent me the recipe so many times, and I would just file it away, knowing that one day I would have to track down the special “glass double boiler” it demanded, and be up to the task of tackling it.
Then, one day, I was reading a cookbook and stumbled on a recipe for hollandaise, and thought to myself, “I wonder if that’s anything like grandmother’s recipe…”, and I dug it out.
What the hell? Hollandaise only has eggs, lemon juice and butter, and perhaps a few drops of water? What makes it so thick and creamy? I couldn’t figure it out. So I grabbed my personal collection, and found that recipe of Mother ‘o Mine’s, and it had FLOUR and a CUP OF WATER in it!
Flour! What was all that flour and water doing in my hollandaise? Apparently it was in there to stabilize it and make it not separate. Flour makes it MOCK hollandaise! All this time I had been having dreams of that delicious MOCK hollandaise, which is specifically designed to make it NOT HARD to keep from separating and curdling or whatever else hollandaise might do.
I had been scammed all those years! All those lessons my mother had drilled into my head about how hard it was, were probably memories she had of Grandmother telling her that, and my mother had forgotten the part where she was told, “And that’s why we add flour to it, dear, to make it easier.”
So I’m cooking some artichokes, and we are going to have Mock Hollandaise with them, and we are going to be in memory heaven.
And it’s not hard.
TWOSIES AND THREESIES
Boil a cup of water – or boil two cups of water, because some is going to boil away while you’re doing other stuff. That’s what happens to me, anyway, because life is what happens while you’re busy making dinner.
In a double boiler, that turns out doesn’t need to be glass, heat some water to just under boiling in the bottom and melt three or four tablespoons of butter in the top. Her recipe says one heaping tablespoon – how do you even do that with a stick of butter. I used three.
When the butter is melted add, she says, “two heaping tablespoons of flour (1/4 cup)”. Well, hell, 1⁄4 cup is four tablespoons. So I just used two. Worked out fine. 1⁄4 cup would have been way too much. This stuff isn’t hard at all. But you have to add the flour kinda’ slowly and stir or whisk constantly or you will end up with lumps. Nobody likes lumpy hollandaise.
At this point, add the one cup of boiling water, and whisk madly until smooth. I add the liquid slowly at first and then more quickly as it blends in. If you just dump it all in you will have lumps.
Then you add your two egg yolks, that you have separated and saved the whites for meringues, or some other thing. And you pour in the two-three tablespoons of lemon juice. Again, I used three. I should call this Threelandaise. And stir in a teaspoon of salt. All of this has been done over the almost boiling water of the double boiler. Take it off the heat, and stir it occasionally until you are ready to use it.
It can be heated up again – over the double boiler, and it’s fine. Doesn’t even separate.
Now to deal with the artichokes that she always told me I had to soak upside down for an hour to get the bugs out of. Who knows if that is true or not.
THE TRUTH COMES OUT – AND THE BUGS
Turns out that the reason we are soaking those artichokes is because you don’t want them to change color after you cut them. So you soak them in acidulated water (water with some lemon juice in it). Of course, the trick is to just cook them right after you trim and wash them, and then you don’t have to soak them at all.
But you do need to wash them. And apparently you DO need to check for bugs. A thorough washing will take care of that. All you do is cut off the stem, trim the pointy parts of the leaves o! with some scissors, pull off the tough bottom leaves, and spread the leaves out under running water to fully rinse out the inside of the artichokes.
Now just pop those artichokes onto a little steamer basket with about an inch or two of water in the pot, and steam them for about an hour. Check them after maybe 40 minutes. If you can easily pluck of a leaf then they are ready. Be careful not to burn your hand on the steam LIKE I DID! It hurts a lot.
IT’S GETTING HOT AND STEAMY IN HERE
To serve them you just plop one on a plate next to a bowl of the fake hollandaise, and when they have suitably cooled, you pull off a leaf, dip the end into the hollandaise, and scrape the tender part with your teeth, discarding the leaf onto a different plate.
I have, somewhere in a box in the garage, the perfect plates for artichokes. Indeed, they are called artichoke plates. They have a spot for the artichoke, an indent for the hollandaise, and a rim all the way around for the leaves. One day, I will get them unpacked.
Cut the bottom up with the edge of your fork, and dip the pieces into the hollandaise, and you will be in artichoke heaven. And that’s what it’s all about.
When you get to the very inner leaves, you will find the “choke”, or hairy part. Don’t eat that. Scoop the hairs away with a spoon and you will have revealed the artichoke bottom: the best part of this beast.
Perhaps I will have mastered true hollandaise at that point.
A wonderful appetizer or side for when people come over you want to confuse.
FOR THE HOLLANDAISE
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2–3 egg yolks, depending on how rich you want it
FOR THE ARTICHOKES
- 2 artichokes
- 2 inches water
- Bring some water almost to the boil in the bottom of a double boiler, and place the butter in the top to melt.
- When the butter is melted, add the flour slowly, constantly stirring, until it is smooth.
- Add one cup of boiling water, again stirring constantly, until it is smooth again.
- Beat the egg yolks lightly, and add them to the mixture, with a teaspoon of salt.
- Stir until the hollandaise is smooth and creamy and then remove the pot from the heat.
- Serve with Artichokes.
This can sit for a while, and be reheated by once again stirring over the hot water in the double boiler.
- Cut off the top inch or so of the artichokes, and trim the remaining spiky ends off of the lower leaves.
- Cut off the stem close to the bottom of the artichoke, so that it will sit up on the plate when done.
- Pull off the bottom, tougher leaves, and discard.
- Rinse off the artichoke under running water, spreading the leaves so that water flushes out the inside of the artichoke well.
- Place the chokes in a pot in a steamer basket with enough water to steam but not boil them.
- Cook for 40-60 minutes, or until tender enough that a leaf easily pulls away from the artichoke.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hr.
- Category: Vegetables