Aspiring chef shows his saucy side

James Langton attempts to improve his culinary skills, and using hollandaise sauce from a jar just won't cut it.

Cipriani's head chef, Tito Piazza, passes on some of the tricks of his trade.
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The question leaves Chef Tito Piazza looking like a man who has just been slapped across the face with a large organic salmon.
"Wouldn't it be easier just to serve hollandaise from a jar?"
He repeats the words of the question in an attempt to digest the enormity of what has been suggested, before attempting a response.
"But why would you want to?"
Here's why. Hollandaise sauce, thick with butter and eggs and just the right acidic bite, is a devil to make. That creamy yellow blob that sits so well with a bunch of steamed white asparagus or a nicely grilled steak conceals a complexity of ingredients to challenge all but the most confident home cook.
But what are the alternatives? You can buy hollandaise in a jar. Or at least something that says "hollandaise" on the label. There's even an impostor that comes in a packet. Just add water and throw away your taste buds. Some of us have a short-cut version that involves egg yolks, a blender and a stream of molten butter.
The real thing, though? The one that sends you reeling somewhere between ecstasy and a massive heart attack? There are no packets, no jars, no blenders. In short, no short cuts.
Chef Tito is evidently not a man for short cuts. He is also the head chef at Cipriani on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. As a wheeze to promote the restaurant's new Friday bunch, the management has invited the media to a masterclass at which one of the menu items, eggs Benedict, will be prepared. And eggs Benedict means hollandaise sauce.
And so here we are in the surprisingly compact kitchen at Cipriani inside the Yas Yacht Club, perched on a line of bar stools, notebooks resting on a stainless steel counter. Chef Tito is ticking off the components of a perfect eggs Benedict. Homemade rolls, eggs poached in simmering water laced with a dash of white vinegar. Turkey ham: "Very similar to Italian cooked ham. A very good product." And the sauce, of course.
He picks up a stainless steel bowl. "Some people say use copper, but we find this perfectly OK." One less thing to worry about. Into the bowl go the yolks, along with glass of white wine reduced by half (the suggested alternative would be stock flavoured with a few drops of maple syrup or lemon juice).
The yolk mix goes over a gently steaming bain-marie as the chef produces a whisk the size of a tennis racket. "You need to put some energy into hollandaise," he announces.
About 10 minutes later, the yolks and liquid have synthesised in a thick yellow cream. Get it wrong and the result is scrambled eggs. Get it right and the sauce clings to the back of a wooden spoon and dribbles back into the mix.
Chef Tito blows on the back of the spoon. "La punta da rosa," he says. "The rose point." His breath has opened up the sauce in the shape of a blossoming rose. We are ready for the next stage.
Hot clarified butter at around 100°C. Lots of it. As Chef Tito continues to whisk - "this is like my workout" - an assistant begins to add a ladle of melted gold into the mix. Then another. And another. What quantity of butter is difficult to say. An indecent amount would seem to cover it.
The hollandaise is nearly ready. It just needs the right amount of seasoning: a dash of cayenne pepper, a splash of lemon juice, a sprinkling of salt. And how many calories? "A lot of calories. You know, the original recipe has twice as many eggs."
The sauce, covered in cling film, can now be kept for a couple of hours, as long as the temperature stays between 72 and 75°C. Chef Tito also recommends a kitchen thermometer when making hollandaise. Just so you don't get caught out at the last minute.
The eggs are poaching and the turkey ham is frying. The brioche-style buns are sliced and all three ingredients plated for the coronation of hollandaise. It is now that someone asks if it would not be easier to use sauce from a jar.
Chef Tito takes a minute to think of the perfect response. He returns with a small tin and delicately spoons a small heap of caviar onto the summit of his creation.