Kitchen Gear

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.

Iron Chef America

I set out to post about a different show, then I realized I had not commented about Iron Chef America. After watching the second set of Chopped episodes available on Netflix, that was the next food show to catch my eye. I blazed through all 25 episodes even faster than I had with Chopped.

Obviously nothing about it cries frugality, and it’s a game show that has far more to its production than what you see on the screen. However, it’s cool to see what the competing chefs make, and the tools they use in the process. Wouldn’t you just love that kitchen? I live in an apartment on the second floor. There is no such thing as “grilling” for me, let alone any kind of indoor grill. When I shared a house with a gas grill on the deck by the kitchen door, I used it all the time, even in the dead of winter, even if it was mostly just for burgers.

To me the worst ingredient might have been liver. I was made to eat liver a few times as a kid, but I didn’t like it, as much for texture as taste. My grandfather loved it, especially with onions. I have never eaten pate and don’t care for the idea. Of course, I don’t care for the idea of raw or rare meats, either. I’ve never tried sushi. Raw beef actually seems more appealing to me. Which is apparently the extreme end of my having come to like beef rarer than I once did, along with sometimes craving it intensely. I’d never make it as a judge on the show.

Frugal or not, it made me feel like I could and should be more creative and varied about what I make with the ingredients I can afford.

Allergy Update

Allergies became part of the focus of this site because my son, now eight, turned out to have multiple allergies. Even before we knew that, he had sensitivity to salicylates, which he outgrew. Until he did outgrow them, it border on being “allergic to food.” Not good. He still tends to prefer the things he could always eat, like potato, beans, corn and peas. Worse, he was also sensitive to azo dyes, the degree varying depending on the color. Since he could not drink fruit juice, and could not drink things like Kool-Aid that were colored, we relied heavily on clear Kool-Aid, the watermelon kiwi flavor.

Ultimately he tested allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, bananas, egg (whits and yolks), and dairy. Peanut was the only one for which we never saw evidence outside of testing. Bananas were particularly bad, but as much in a digestive way as anything.

He ultimately outgrew everything but the tree nuts, which are just as clear cut as ever…

In June this year, last day of school, we had to use an epi-pen for the first time in all these years. On the way to school, the crossing guard was giving out Munchkins, and he ate a chocolate one. I am not sure of the veracity of this, but he says his mouth itched during school. After coming home, he had mint chocolate chip ice cream. That;s his favorite, which he has had many times. Later still, he had a fudgesicle from a local supermarket chain, store brand. Following that, he got red faced, hives, had trouble swallowing, and may have had a little trouble breathing. It took two of us to overcome his objection to being injected. Then we had an ambulance ride, somewhat greater treatment than normal, and a rapid recovery and return home. I hadn’t known before then that ranitidine is an antihistimine and is used for allergy treatment. He hated it. Also had trouble with the nebulizer.

Anyway, that was kind of weird, since it appeared he’d reacted to the fudgesicles, which were a new thing, but which weren’t even co-processed in a facility where they could have been exposed to allergens. That was a Friday.

The next Monday, he had more mint chocolate chip ice cream and got covered in hives, but nothing some Benadryl couldn’t handle. Still, that was one of the same foods, all three of which had contained chocolate. Smaller amount of chocoalte… smaller reaction?

We took him for allergy testing for chocolate. In practice this included the entire standard panel of sixty tests, so there were some he’d never been tested for before.

He remained allergic to tree nuts, reacting to three of those, rather than merely two as happened the previous three tests. He was back to reacting to peanut and banana. We’d avoided both of those, just because (actually, he refused to try them, but not a bad idea). He did not react to chocolate/cocoa, but he did test positive for peas and soy. That’s funny, as he eats peas regularly and loves them, and he still uses soy milk, soy butter, and soy margarine. The only time he has ever reacted to soy, long past, was from consuming spoiled soy milk. Fascinating, given the test result, but these are two positives we can ignore.

Since he didn’t test positive to chocolate but we wanted to be sure, he then got the blood test. That was fun. His veins are even harder to find than mine, and he screamed a lot. It took three trips to try getting blood drawn before it actually happened.

Chocolate was negative. Yay! This left a mystery, though. The most logical thing, given the clues and that the prime, overwhelming allergy that remains unambiguously is to tree nuts, is that the mint chocolate chip was contaminated. Perhaps it was worse the first day because so was the Munchkin. Or perhaps because the contamination was fresh. In retrospect, I can picture ice cream with nuts getting scooped, then the same scoop getting reused in the other flavor without being fully cleaned. Kitchen things are the gift of choice for Dad, so for my birthday the kids got me the superlative ice cream scoop of their dreams. One, which takes it rapidly out of service. However, it can be rinsed and used in a second container right afterward. And that’s what must have happened.

There have been no further scares. We’re being more careful about cross-contamination. It’s never been that much of a problem before.

Kitchen Shears

How did I ever live without them?

Before I met Deb, I’d perhaps heard of such a thing, but nobody I knew actually used them, as far as I ever noticed. That seems strange.

They’re all the better in that they come apart and fit conveniently in the dishwasher.

I made chicken broccoli alfredo for supper, which is what made me think of what a wonder they are. They’re so much better for cutting a boneless chicken breast into small pieces, and trimming off the suspicious bits, than a knife ever was.