Condiments

Hollandaise Sauce

Here is the post implied by the ending of the recent herb steamed asparagus post, in which I finally tried making hollandaise sauce almost but not exactly as indicated in this recipe. I had bought two bunches of asparagus, and planned to do this with the second one, just because.

Weird, right? It doesn’t smack of frugality, and I have no reason to want hollandaise, having never, as far as I can recall, eaten it before in my life.

The thing is, the perceived difficulty of cooking eggs and keeping them liquid intrigued me. The idea of mother sauces intrigues me, especially since I rock at sauces and gravies generally. The presumed similarity to making homemade mayonaise intrigues me.

Finally, it’s part of the quest to make variants of plain old asparagus.

So. The recipe. I used 4 yolks, as it said. Most recipes I perused called for 3 yolks. My eggs were extra large, for what it’s worth, not large. I’ve had a goofy little egg separator for 30+ years and, as far as I can recall, have never used it. Until now! For one egg. Which told me doing it with my hands, as I have seen TV chefs do, was vastly better. The gadget was too small, and failed to separate the white as fully or quickly as my fingers. I saved the whites for another experiment, in a cake, since it was my birthday and I am the cook here.

I got about 3 tablespoons of juice from a lemon I had remembered to buy for the purpose, and used one for the hollandaise. See the aforementioned cake for the fate of the rest.

Now, every other recipe I looked at called either for (mostly) a tablespoon of water or (less often) a tablespoon of cream. Or maybe it was milk. This recipe had neither, but I used water anyway, and good thing. I could see it being even better with cream or milk.

I used salted butter. I do not as a rule have unsalted in the house. I buy it if I plan something I know calls for it, and care enough to comply. Some recipes specify unsalted. Some do not. I melted it carefully in the microwave, managing to come out with a complete melt that was no more than room temperature. In just one place I saw mention that sometimes clarified butter is used in hollandaise. I thought that sounded right, so as best I could, I mostly skimmed off the foamy milk solids. (If, like me until relatively recently, you have no idea what is meant by “clarified butter,” that’s all it is: melted butter with the light colored scum you see floating on top skimmed off. It sounds fancier and more intimidating than it is.)

The pinches of salt and cayenne were as directed, though I went very light on the salt, considering the salted butter.

The recipe describes the lemon juice and yolk mixture doubling in volume. I’m not sure mine doubled, though my dubiousness was mooted by seeing that it did increase in volume.

The method described for using a stainless steel pan with a saucepan is great as a makeshift double boiler. Granted, doing this made me pine for a double boiler, and I even found that there are pans sold that come with both steamer and double boiler insets. I checked, since logic suggested the possibility to me.

I would emphasize that pretty much continuous light whisking/stirring is imperative to keep the egg from cooking into solids. It has to cook as a liquid. When it was obviously done, I set the metal bowl into another bowl with shallow, cool water in it. That arrested the cooking process. Shortly after, I changed the water for warm so the sauce wouldn’t get too cold.

I steamed the asparagus with herbs, but less strongly than I had the first time. I thought the flavor would go well, even though the sauce would add flavor and a change of texture profile. That sounds all fancy.

The result?

It was tasty, but too lemony for me. I can’t imagine it is meant to taste that lemony. It was a bit thicker than perhaps is ideal. And that’s with the water the recipe didn’t include! I could have put in a tiny bit more to thin it, but didn’t bother. If I make it again, I would start by reducing the lemon. I would probably use milk or cream instead of water. I might experiment with seasoning the sauce. Heck, I’d be interested in using the basic technique for an eggy sauce to diverge into doing my own thing entirely.

Was it hard to make? No. I didn’t find it tricky at all. I can see how it could go terribly wrong, sure. But I had perceived the making of a sauce in which eggs are cooked liquid to be extremely difficult. Anyone paying adequate attention could do it. Now I know.

Leftover Meatloaf Adventure

I was going to make chili today, but fell asleep at my desk about the time I’d have started the beans. By the time I remembered after waking again, it was too late.

Just as well, as we had beef the past two nights. The first was Deb’s meatloaf. The second was an experiment in using the leftover meatloaf. It may have been sparked by unconsciously remembering my mother making meatloaf burgers in sauce when I was in my teens. We had meatloaf burgers regularly, perhaps to stretch the meat, or perhaps to save time over baking in meatloaf form, or maybe both.

When you get meatloaf at a restaurant, gravy seems to be the norm. I never had gravy on meatloaf when I was a kid. In fact, gravy wasn’t a big thing at all. Since I discovered my talent for making gravy, I’ve come to see how it might have developed as a way to increase the richness and food value of a meal cheaply. Not to mention being a way to impart extra flavor or moisture. I made gravy once for meatloaf, a while back, but forgot this time. When we decided the leftovers would be supper the next night, as opposed to lunch – usually I have a meatloaf sandwich – I decided to make some.

I wanted it to be different, though.

I crumbled up a small hamburger I defrosted, this being to supplement the fact the meatloaf itself was limited. I cooked it with some butter and spices. I set out to complement the meatloaf, which was heavy on oregano, and otherwise spiced mainly with cumin.

I used some garlic powder, red pepper, black pepper, oregano, cushed bay leaf, cumin, and a wee bit of ginger and allspice. At this point Deb was making yummy smell noises from the living room.

Usually when I make gravy I heat a cup of water for two minutes in the microwave and drop two boullion cubes into it. I used one.

With the beef cooked, I moved that to the side, added 2 – 3 more tablespoons of butter and started adding flour to cook in it when that was mostly melted. It solidified right up so I started dribbling beef stock in, stirring, adding more flour, and so forth. It was two heaping tablespoons of flour. Then I added the rest of the beef stock.

Now the departure: I added half a cup of ketchup. This was too much, so I ended up doing far more adjusting than I would have liked. Tomato soup, paste or sauce could also have worked, while varying the exact flavor and how it might have needed tweaking. I am sure that what my mother served with meatloaf burgers was tomato soup based, if not essentially nothing more than tomato soup.

After the ketchup and stirring in the crumbled burger, I had to add more water and then more flour. In adjusting the taste, which had an oddly astringent quality, I added more cumin a couple times, a pinch more red pepper, black pepper, and brown sugar. I also added an entire beef boullion cube to the gravy and let it dissolve in. So much for using only one.

The idea was to get moderately spiced beef gravy tinged with ketchup – another item used in the meatloaf too – rather than ketchup flavored gravy. I succeeded, after all the tweaking.

Once I was happy with the gravy, I set slices of cold meatloaf in it and covered the pan for a couple minutes. Then I flipped them, stirred the gravy around them a bit and covered them longer. It was a nice way to heat the cold meatloaf.

We ate the meatloaf and gravy/sauce over rice, with lima beans on the side. The kids devoured it! Valerie was more interested in the lima beans, but she ate everything. Sadie especially loved the leatloaf and gravy. Deb enjoyed it, despite having been initially concerned over my adding ketchup. She thought I succeeded in my goal of complementing the flavor of the meatloaf in how I spiced the gravy.

I’d do something like it again, though it would remain subject to experimentation.

Sounds weird, eh? I’ll have pictures, but they’re still on the camera now. The pictures make it look great.

Rachel Lucas, Cole Slaw, Ketchup and More!

So Rachel Lucas is back to blogging, which actually does relate to food somewhat, in that I once e-mailed her and got her deviled egg recipe. I just e-mailed her, replying to the original e-mail, no less, suggesting she post it.

Which is exactly what she did with her coleslaw recipe. I have never made coleslaw, but I do enjoy eating the stuff, which has many variants. Seems like a good place to start.

The best coleslaw I ever had was probably what my brother-in-law’s late father used to make in mass quantities for gatherings. That was a variant containing pineapple, which I’m sure some would consider heresy. He learned to make it in the service, where he cooked for a crowd regularly. Hey, “enough to feed an army” is a hyperbolic expression based in fact.

What about you? Pineapple or not? Carrots? What’s amazing is how the flavor varies from restaurant to restaurant, considering it’s essentially shredded cabbage and dressing, so we’ve probably all found restaurants that excel and others that most decidedly do not.

Finally, on a subject related only by food, Rachel Lucas, and a question of preferences, I am please, proud, and downright tickled to note that she prefers Heinz and Jif when it comes to ketchup and peanut butter. The posts about those preferences have been many over the years, including more than once by me, but people always come back for more. Undoubtedly at some point when I can think of nothing better, I will resort to a “favorite condiments” post here. Until then, feel free to carry on in the comments about ketchup and peanut butter, as well as deviled eggs, coleslaw recipes and restaurant versions of same.