Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A classic without a twist

It's spring, and everyone and their friend are blogging about asparagus. And at least some bloggers have original ideas (I think this asparagus and mascarpone pasta sounds really delish), whereas I'm just going to do the boring old pancetta wrapped asparagus with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. Well, it might be old to many, but not to me. I have to admit, I have never made poached eggs, or Hollandaise sauce. Actually, I'm scared of all sauces, I tend to mess them up, so I tend to stay away. However, today I got inspired by the chefs in Great British Menu taking cooking to the limits of their skills, and decided to tackle the Hollandaise. I stole the recipe from my favourite food blog Voisilmäpeliä.

Asparagus and pancetta (serves 1 as a main or 2 as a starter):
250g asparagus 
5-6 slices of pancetta

2 egg yolks
1/4 lemon juice (I used juice from 1/2 a lemon)
50g butter
cayenne pepper

Poached eggs:
2 eggs

The howto:
Get the kettle going, you will need lots of boiling water, both for the water bath for the sauce and the poached eggs. Start by preparing the asparagus. I used thick asparagus, so I started by peeling it and boiling for a few minutes (but make sure only two or three minutes, so it doesn't go too soft). If you are using fine asparagus spears, you don't need to do this. Wrap the asparagus stalks in pancetta, if you are using fine asparagus, cut the slices of pancetta in half lengthwise. Bake in 175 degrees C for about 10-15 minutes.

All set to go for the Hollandaise. Water gently boiling, butter melted
and yolk and lemon juice in the plastic bowl ready to go on the water bath.
While the asparagus is baking, prepare the Hollandaise. Start by melting the butter. Next you need to make a water bath. I used a saucepan and a plastic bowl on top as I don't have a stainless steel bowl, which undoubtedly would look much more professional. The main thing is the water should only be gently bubbling, not boiling too hard, and the top bowl should not be touching the water. Add egg yolk and lemon juice in the bowl, whisk on top of the water bath until it starts to get a bit fluffy. Then start adding in the melted butter in teeny tiny drops all the while whisking. Hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolk and butter, in the same way mayonnaise is an emulsion of egg yolk and oil. When all the butter is whisked in, the sauce should be light and fluffy. Take it off the water bath and season with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Hollandaise about halfway through adding the butter.

The last thing to do is to poach the eggs. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add a splash of vinegar. If you add more vinegar it's easier to get the egg to poach nicely, but there will be a stronger taste of vinegar. When the water is gently boiling, pour the egg into the water. Use a spoon to collect the white around the yolk if the egg spreads around too much in the water. Don't worry if it looks a bit messy, when you get the egg out of the water, it will look nice on the plate nonetheless! Two and a half to three minutes should be perfect to get that wonderful runny yolk.

One serving (half of this recipe) contains 409 kcal (36g fat, 7.4g carbs, 15.5g protein).

The verdict:
There is a reason why this is a classic. The salty pancetta with the soft asparagus and the soft buttery flavour and texture of the Hollandaise go together perfectly. Asparagus can be tricky, as you certainly don't want to overdo it. Baking it in the pancetta protects it in the oven, and I think it turned out perfect, sweet and juicy but still a bit chewy.

I was surprised at how easy the Hollandaise was to make. I guess the secret is the same as with mayonnaise, just make sure to drop in the butter little at a time and keep on whisking vigorously. To be honest, I don't know how a perfect Hollandaise should taste, but I was very happy with mine. I guess I need to find a nice restaurant and have some so that I have a reference point. I used a bit more lemon juice than the original recipe, and I liked that there was a distinct lemon taste, but I would guess the original should be a bit less lemony and a bit more buttery. Also, the sauce turned out very smooth and soft with the little pinch of cayenne adding a little bit of a kick. Apart from slightly overpoaching my eggs, I think this turned out pretty nice and I will certainly be cooking it again. I'm happy I have overcome my fear of sauces, at least my fear of Hollandaise. It really isn't at all as hard as you would think, so I warmly recommend trying it. If I can do it, anyone can.

No comments:

Post a Comment