Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hollandaise vs Curd

So the mother-in-law calls today asking about asparagus. We were having dinner at my wife's parents' place this evening, and she wanted to know how to cook asparagus. She had never made it herself before. So I recommended steaming and hung up. And I started thinking, if they're gonna have asparagus, what would be more perfect than hollandaise, right? I figured I would just put something together when I got there.

I grabbed a lemon and some unsalted butter and headed over. When we got there, I set up a double boiler and seperated 3 eggs. I added the juice of the lemon and the 3 yolks to a metal bowl and started whisking. This is kind of delicate stuff, so I had to keep moving the bowl on the heat and off the heat again. Believe me, this stuff scrambles pretty quick. When it started to thicken, I started adding butter. And in a move that would make every one of my chefs cringe and make Alton Brown proud, I started adding whole, unmelted butter, a little at a time. When one piece was dissolved, I added another. I probably ended up adding about two Tablespoons altogether. I seasoned with a little salt, a little white pepper, and a little ground chipotle. It was a big hit.

And then I started thinking... replace the seasonings with a Tablespoon or two of sugar, add a little lemon zest, and I have lemon curd! But there is more of a difference. When hollandaise is usually made, it requires the cook to slowly drizzle in melted clarified butter. Oh, and there's a little water and/or white wine in with the lemon juice. And unlike curd, it pretty much has to be done a la minute... meaning, at the last minute. Because this stuff doesn't set up very well at all. Or rather, once set it, it doesn't stay set up for long. I wonder why they (the French, of course) decided to do hollandaise like that, and still make lemon curd in a way that will actually stay set up?

Very interesting.


  1. "I wonder why they (the French, of course) decided to do hollandaise like that, and still make lemon curd in a way that will actually stay set up?"

    I think it might have something to do with the fact that the only frenchman to ever not be a complete idiot is a fictional starfleet captain.

    But, it's also possible that the whole point of hollandaise (coincidentally, why isn't hollandaise from Holland?) is to have a hot sauce. As in thermally hot, not like capsaicin hot. So, if you're going to make something that's going to set up, why not just make mayonaise (coincidentally, why isn't mayonaise from Mayoland?).

  2. Hey, wait, that wasn't supposed to make me anonymous. Oh well.


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