Conquering my fear of Hollandaise sauce, with thanks to Gordon Ramsey

I confess, this is not my picture

Until I sailed on Norwegian Cruise Lines, I had no idea you could make hollandaise sauce with olive oil.  It’s because of the butter that I had to give it up.

Before I went dairy free, I used to meet a friend of mine in a local diner.  I always ordered eggs benedict.  It always made me sick, but I had no idea why at the time.

Hollandaise is an emulsion of eggs and oil, much like mayonnaise.  If you do it right, it results in a thick, creamy and eggy sauce.  If you do it wrong; scrambled eggs.

Hollandaise can be difficult for even the most accomplished chefs.  I wanted to replicate that wonderful, creamy hollandaise I had onboard the ship.  So I did some reading up on it, and found that Gordon Ramsey’s recipe is the most straight forward.   But you can only do so much reading before you actually have to take a deep breath and just do it.  I didn’t follow his recipe exactly, and my sauce curdled.  But I was able to save it.

Here is the recipe (with thanks to Gordon Ramsey), with my pictures:


3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
200 ml olive oil


Using a large balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks with a squeeze of lemon juice and seasoning in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Beat vigorously for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. (To make sure the sauce doesn’t overheat, take it on and off the heat while you whisk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula.) The aim is to achieve a golden, airy sauce that forms ribbons on the surface when the whisk is lifted.

Whisk eggs until they thicken

Warm the olive oil in a small pan, then set aside. Off the heat, gradually add a little of the warmed olive oil at a time to the egg mix, then return the bowl over a gentle heat to cook a little more. Remove from the heat again and whisk in another dash of warm oil. Repeat until all the oil is incorporated and the sauce has a thick, mayonnaise-like consistency.

add olive oil to egg slowly

Whisk in more lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, plus 2–3 tablespoons of warm water to give the mixture a pouring consistency, then add the chopped tarragon.

Here’s what I did and didn’t do, and why the sauce broke:

  • I didn’t whisk the eggs long enough before adding the olive oil.  Gordon says to whisk for about ten minutes.  I whisked the eggs for about five minutes.  Yes, I am impatient.
  • The water got too hot in the pan underneath and scrambled the eggs, even though I kept taking the sauce off and on the simmering water.
  • I added the olive oil too fast.
oops-this hollandaise is broken (curdled)

You can save broken hollandaise.  I was able to save about three tablespoons worth, which is better than nothing.

  • Add 1 to 2 teaspoons boiling water at a time and whisk.
  • If that doesn’t work, crack another egg, separate the yolk and slowly whisk the broken sauce into the egg yolk
  • I tried both ways, and the sauce would not come together.  After whisking the broken sauce into the egg yolk, I added two teaspoons of boiling water, and the sauce came together.
I saved the hollandaise!

I have to admit, making this made me very nervous, but I pulled it off.  A bit of perseverance, determination, and confidence saved the day.  I did have a lot of broken sauce left over, and I never used all of the olive oil.

Will I make this again?  You bet!  As I have said before, if you have a favorite food that you miss, and you find a converted recipe, try it!  You have nothing to lose and might just gain confidence.  You might surprise yourself!

What do you think?  Have you had an epic fail in gluten or dairy free cooking or baking?  How did you rescue it?  Let me know!


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