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Every family has their holiday traditions and mine is no exception. At Christmas we have the usual traditions exchanging gifts, decking the halls, and the not so usual traditions of tamale-making and the falling-of-the-Christmas-tree. It seems that almost every year, after we have finished putting up our tree, stringing it with lights, and decorating it, sometime later, when the whole household is asleep with the satisfaction of our halls decked in Christmas splendor, we are rudely awakened the crashing sound of the tree falling and the tragic sound of treasured ornaments breaking as they hit the hardwood floor. It happened three years in a row, until we finally bought a super sturdy tree stand. But that was our Christmas tradition. We have another special custom which we will celebrate today, Easter Sunday.
The time-honored Easter tradition in our family is the annual Hollandaise Sauce Breakdown, followed-by the inevitable Mommy Melt-Down. At Easter time, I like to prepare brunch. Sometimes we host other families and sometimes it’s just us. When it’s just us I like to make Eggs Benedict, topped with hollandaise sauce. Anyone who has ever made this sauce knows that the secret to this dish is timing. Poach the eggs a bit too long and they are hard. Poach them not long enough and they are runny and yucky. Since my egg poacher only has enough room for four eggs at a time, I have to cook them quickly and keep them warm while I am simultaneously stirring in the chilled butter one pat at a time, into the hollandaise sauce. When it works, it’s wonderful, but when my timing is off, it’s a recipe for disaster. There has been more than one occasion when I have been able to perfectly poach the eggs and nearly complete the hollandaise sauce, when the sauce suddenly breaks apart and I end up with a saucepan full of greasy, separated butter flavored with lemon. Last year I managed to successfully poach the eggs and, with precision timing the hollandaise sauce was ready right on cue. I called everyone to the table, “BREAKFAST!” Nothing. Crickets.
The kids were too busy with their Easter baskets. No one came to the table. The eggs got cold and my sauce broke down. I looked at the saucepan full of separated, slightly curdled butter, which only moments had been a rich, creamy yellow masterpiece. I lost it. I had a melt-down. I am ashamed to admit it now, but I threw down the pot holder, and went to my room. I heard Juan frantically trying to bring the sauce together while he barked orders to the kids to get into the kitchen and help. Juan, whose family had owned a restaurant, called his dad and asked for help. He managed to rescue the sauce and found me in our room, brooding about all my unappreciated efforts. The kids apologized and we all sat down for a breakfast of lukewarm poached eggs and put-together-again hollandaise sauce.
I like to think I have learned from that lesson. One thing I have learned is that I cannot make this breakfast alone, the preparation requires precise timing, a task better suited for several hands. Last summer Erica went to cooking camp and came home with a great recipe and the skills to make a killer hollandaise sauce. So, Juan has offered to make the hash browns, Erica will make the sauce and I will (try) to poach the eggs. With this combined effort I think we can serve up a wonderful meal and I can avoid a melt-down. Now that’s a holiday tradition I can really enjoy!