I’ve gotten myself into a pickle, or, what happens when your Hollandaise really breaks
Full disclosure, this isn’t the story I meant to write.
First, I want to try pickling. Full confession, I’ve never pickled anything — phew, I feel good getting that off my chest. I started by creating my pickling liquid: 1 part vinegar, one part sugar, two parts water. To that, I added thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves, and a couple calabrian chili’s. If you’ve never tried them, they’re fantastic with a rich garlicy flavor and some, but not overwhelming heat.
While I was getting this up to a simmer, I prepped the vegetables — in my case, cauliflower and carrots. I also smashed multiple garlic cloves for the bottom of the pickling jar and then poured the liquid over the vegetables and sealed the jar. Incidentally, if you can find a pot that has a curved (tulip) edge, it will make the process of pouring the liquid into the jar a lot neater.
From there, I left the jar to cool on the counter to cool before putting it into the fridge. With that done, I moved onto the asparagus, also known as “the excuse to hollandaise sauce.”
T.K. shows a technique of removing the outer skin of asparagus with a green scrub pad (obviously fresh — not one you’ve been scrubbing pots and pans with). The result is wonderful, but can be a little tricky to do without snapping the asparagus.
With the asparagus cleaned, I lined up the tips and bound them. Following that, I cut the ends so that each was the same size. From there, it’s into the salted pot of water. Incidentally, the water is supposed to be “like the sea” — I never seem to get the water that salty. I like the asparagus pretty tender — that usually takes about 2 1/2 minutes for me, but it’s personal preference. From there, it’s out of the boiling water and into an ice bath to arrest the cooking at the point that I wanted.
Now onto the main event, and what I really wanted to practice: the hollandaise sauce. I’ve watched it being made, in real life, but have never done so myself. Given that it can be tricky, I wanted to practice for my practice dinner.
Hollandaise is egg yolk, clarified butter, lemon juice, salt, and a little water — it’s combined over a low heat (T.K. recommends a double boiler) and whisked till smooth. To begin with, I heated up some ghee.
The recipe calls for the clarified butter to be at 165 f. I had it at 175. Strike 1.
While the clarified butter was melting (and it smells amazing, btw), I got the rest of my mise en place errr in place. This means cutting and juicing the lemon, and getting everything close to the water.
The egg mixture goes through a really interesting transformation as you both heat it and add the clarified butter and lemon juice. It goes from a frothy mixture to an incredibly smooth velvety liquid, to (in my case when it went too far) something that looks like commercial mayonnaise. Avoid that. Pull it when it’s smooth, but still liquid. I did mange to get some of the correct consistency sauce on the asparagus.
As you can tell from the second ladle of sauce, it’d started to break (the oil started to separate from the egg mixture). If you’ve gotten to the mayonnaise consistency stage, you’re about to break.
T.K. talks specifically about how to fix broken hollandaise sauce: it involves heating it to fully break it, then slowly add whisked egg yolk in and continue whisking. So, with that in mind, I put the bowl back over the pot of boiling water. Strike 2.
I added the egg and whisked — I remembered that part of the technique involves putting the sauce into an ice bath to arrest the cooking. I did that. As I was continuing to whisk the mixture, I started to wondering why the mixture was getting so watery — there’s a clue there, I think.
At one point, I thought I’d gotten the sauce back to the right consistency and started to list the bowl out of the ice bath to bring it over to the asparagus. As it turns out, the reason why it was getting watery was because the bowl, which was a kitchen bowl but not heat safe, had split and was in the process of shattering.
The bowl snapped into multiple pieces in my hand. It hurt.
Thankfully, I got the finger cleaned up, the bleeding under control, and me cleaned up. On the bad side, I need a new bowl (this time heat safe), and I need to practice my hollandaise still. At least I’ll have pickled vegetables to console myself.