Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Mayonnaise, Tomato Sauce, and Velouté are the mother sauces of French cuisine. We also consider Beurre Blanc a base or mother sauce, even though the French do not. Once you know how to make these you can add a few different ingredients to each base to make 100's of different variations.
Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of butter and lemon juice using egg yolks as the emulsifying agent, usually seasoned with salt and a little black pepper or cayenne pepper.
Hollandaise is notoriously difficult to make well and to hold. Properly made it should be smooth and creamy, and if beaten long enough will hold its shape as firmly as whipped cream. It tastes very rich and buttery, with a mild tanginess added by the lemon juice and seasonings. It must be made and served warm, but not hot. If the ingredients are not mixed properly, or if they are kept too cold or too hot, they will separate, resulting in an oily mess filled with particles of egg yolk.
Most authorities use something like the following method: A wire whisk and a thin-bottomed bowl work fine. The egg yolks must be beaten thoroughly first, then the lemon juice beaten into them. Then the butter (preferably clarified butter; clarified, meaning it has been melted and the milk solids removed) is added very slowly, while the mixture is being continually beaten and held over a pot of simmering water.
Once you have made Hollandaise as a base you can add some simple ingredients to make multiple variations such as Bearnaise which is always great with a steak, or even better in the rich appetizer lobster recipe I show you at the end.
2 tablespoons white-wine or tarragon vinegar or fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons boiling water
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt the butter and keep it warm. Heat lemon juice until just warmed. Have small saucepan with boiling water and a measuring tablespoon ready. Place the top of a double boiler over (not in) hot water. (This means the bottom of the top of the double boiler sound not make contact with the water heating in the bottom half of the double boiler.)
Place the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and whisk until they begin to thicken. Now add 1 tablespoon of the boiling water. Continue to beat the sauce until it begins to thicken. Repeat with the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time, beating the mixture after each addition.
Now add the warmed vinegar or lemon juice. Remove the double boiler from the heat. Beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk. Continue to beat the mixture as you slowly pour in the melted butter. Add the salt and cayenne and beat the sauce until it is thick. Serve immediately.
Sauce Mousseline - - whipped cream folded in to Hollandaise (also known as Sauce Chantilly).
Sauce Aux Capres - add drained capers
Sauce Bearnaise - - replace lemon in recipe with a reduction of vinegar, shallots, and fresh chervil and/or tarragon, strained.
Sauce Maltaise - - orange zest (blanched) and juice, blood orange for authenticity.
Sauce Divine - - reduced sherry folded into whipped cream.
Sauce Noisette - - Hollandaise made with browned butter (beurre noisette).
Sauce Bavaroise - - cream, horseradish, thyme.
Sauce Foyot - - add meat glaze (Glace de Viande) to Bearnaise; also known as Sauce Valoise.
Sauce Colbert - - Sauce Foyot with addition of reduced white wine.
Sauce Paloise - - Bearnaise but substitute mint for tarragon (great with Lamb).
Sauce Creme Fleurette - - add Crème fraîche.
Sauce Choron - - Foyot plus tomato purée.
Sauce Dijon - - add Dijon mustard (also known as Sauce Moutarde or Sauce Girondine).
Sauce vin Blanc (for fish) - - add reduction white wine and fish stock.
Lobster Escargot Style
You can make this recipe with Lobster, Scallops, or Prawns, but I prefer the lobster. Buy a couple New Zealand, or Australian tails for this dish.
1 Lb Shelled Lobster Tail
Grated Gruyere Cheese
Melt some butter and put a little in each hole of an escargot dish, or mini Muffin pan.
Cut the lobster tail into bite size pieces and put in the hole, cover with bearnaise sauce, and Gruyere cheese and bake at 375 till brown, usually about 10 minutes.