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Cooking the Mother Sauces: Patience a key ingredient

Rich and creamy hollandaise sauce is a must with traditional eggs Benedict.

It’s also often paired with steamed asparagus and goes well with boiled potatoes and finer fish dishes such as poached salmon or herb-crusted cod.

And it’s the only one of the five mother sauces thickened with an emulsion of melted butter and egg yolk.

“This probably is the thickest of them all,” said Adam Swedberg, executive banquet chef at the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

It’s also an extremely delicate sauce. The key is to heat the ingredients without curdling the yolks. Using a double boiler helps.

Still, this can be an intimidating task, said Swedberg, who likes to use pasteurized yolks in this recipe. He also likes to spice things up with horseradish.

Of the five mother sauces, this is the one he’s made the most. “I started out as a breakfast cook,” he said. Plus, eggs Benedict is one of the hotel’s signature dishes at its Sunday brunch.

Hollandaise is one of the five mother sauces, organized in the early 1800s by Marie Antoine-Carene and added onto by Auguste Escoffier. They’re part of the foundation of French cooking. Many chefs have them committed to memory. Home cooks could use the techniques to add flavor and elevate entrees.

Patience is an implied ingredient in this sauce, which requires constant whisking and a careful eye. “You don’t want to go too long or you’ll end up scrambling the eggs,” said Swedberg, noting it takes about 15 to 20 minutes of whisking to make the sauce. “But it’s worth the wait.”

Horseradish Hollandaise Sauce

From Adam Swedberg, executive banquet chef at the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane

8 egg yolks

1/4 cup water

Juice from 1 lemon

1 cup clarified butter

2 tablespoons horse radish

Salt and pepper, to taste

In stainless steel bowl, place egg yolks, water and lemon juice, then whisk rapidly until foamy. Place bowl over sauce pan with simmering water. Continue to whisk yolk mixture until it has the consistency of custard and registers 150 degrees. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in butter. Add horse radish, and mix well. Season as desired.

Notes: For bearnaise sauce, replace lemon juice and horseradish with white wine vinegar and add tarragon.