Otherwise known as The Best Brunch Eva or The Sauce I Am Always Thinking About. Hollandaise is a phenomenal invention. Light and airy but rich and bright, so satisfying on so many items.
I’m presenting it with eggs because it’s where I first discovered it, and the classic, but please please please do not stop there. Asparagus, green beans, fish, fiddleheads, on a spoon—this sauce could go on anything.
Eggs Florentine is much like its cousin Benedict, except that it has spinach to go along with the poached eggs and hollandaise instead of ham (there’s also Arnold, which has smoked salmon). I like spinach better, both for the purposes of decreasing meat consumption (I never have ham lying around) and to make it a little lighter, fresher, greener. Chard or kale is also lovely (make sure to cook the kale enough, since you want it soft and velvety so as not to disrupt the luxurious smoothness of the hollandaise). Mmm.
So, three different components to this dish: 1) Poached egg, 2) Hollandaise (yumm), and 3) Spinach/greens. The third is by far the easiest, and can be creamed or just sautéed (creamed=sautéed with cream and maybe a little nutmeg). I prefer a light sauté with some olive oil, to keep it fresh and light. Item 1 I find the trickiest to get quite right, I suspect because I haven’t done it much. I manage it successfully much more often than not, I just flail around a bit when it’s cooking and get all nervous. The Kitchn has some good tips if my instructions aren’t clear enough.
There are a bunch of ways to make hollandaise. The classic (Julia Child’s version) is to cook egg yolks with lemon juice first (whisking constantly), then add soft butter and whisk like mad until it’s emulsified. On the other end of the spectrum is blender hollandaise, where you put eggs yolks and lemon juice in a blender and blend, pouring in melted butter while in progress. I like the mid ground, where I get to whisk a bunch and feel it come together and get all foamy, but it remains relatively foolproof. I imagine that whisking and cooking also achieves a thicker sauce than the blender version, because you cook the eggs a bit first, other than just being heated by the melted butter.
If you really want to be fancy, you can clarify your butter before you begin, by melting and skimming off the foamy bits and or even straining them out. Clarified butter has more fat (you are skimming off water content and milk solids), so you can use a little less of it. I haven’t been bothered yet, but I shall have to try it just for experiment’s sake sometime.
Eggs Florentine Eggs Toast, or English muffins Spinach Olive oil Hollandaise sauce 3 egg yolks 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 cup butter, melted Pinch cayenne Salt
Put a pot of water on to boil for the eggs, then prep the spinach: I like mine sautéed gently (it should be soft) with a little olive oil and some garlic. Add cream if you like.
To poach an egg: Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add vinegar. Turn down the heat so the water isn’t rolling, but at a light simmer, and start swirling the water so it spirals. It helps to have an assistant here, but is doable solo too. Crack in your egg and keep swirling so the whites wrap around the egg. Cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on the size of the egg and how runny you like it (ideally the white is cooked but still soft and the yolk is runny). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a towel, being careful not to break the yolk. If making for company, you can poach a bunch of eggs ahead of time and then right before the hollandaise is ready, put them back in boiling water for a scant minute to warm up again. In that case, definitely go with a shorter cooking time in the beginning because you don’t want to overcook them.
And now, the Sauce. Mm. Melt butter in the microwave (or stovetop if you prefer), preferably in a glass Pyrex with a pouring spout. In a double boiler—not heated yet (I use a glass bowl and later place it over a small pot of boiling water), whisk yolks, then whisk in lemon juice, and keep going until it gets foamy and a little lighter. Heat until slightly thickened, whisking constantly (you don’t have to do this for long, just until a little thicker). Continually whisking, add the melted (clarified if you like) butter in a stream. It should emulsify and become yellow and light. Whisk in cayenne and salt, taste for lemon and add more as needed.
Serve: Toast an English muffin or bread, top with spinach, warm egg (dunk in boiling water to warm up if needed), and warm sauce. If sauce gets too thick, whisk in a little water. If you wait a little bit to serve it, keep warm and whisk often (I decided to take hollandaise to a brunch potluck once and as I was driving over I was reaching over to the passenger’s side to whisk frantically every few minutes to keep it emulsified. Turned out splendidly and was well appreciated, and I didn’t crash to boot).
Broken sauce tips here (fear not, it’s probably saveable).