Squid Ink is going back to basics with Martha Stewart's Cooking School, airing every weekend through the end of the year on PBS. Join us.
Martha Stewart believes in studying the classics, she says, as images of Einstein, Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln (what?) cross the screen, and this logic, of course, applies to cooking. That's the whole basis of what she's doing with Martha Stewart's Cooking School, and it's the theme behind the sauces she chose to teach the masses (or at least we PBS-loving geeks) over the weekend. These are her classics: hollandaise, beurre blanc, béchamel and marinara, all of which work as either a dressing for entrees and vegetables, as well as for the bases of less textbook sauces.
First up, Hollandaise.
Sayeth Martha, a double boiler is not a great idea for Hollandaise because the steel tends to get too hot. She recommends using a glass mixing bowl over a copper pot if you don't have a porcelain bain-marie. (Do you? We do not.)
This recipe came straight from the Stewart camp (thank you!) so it's fantastically detailed.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1. Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat so water is barely simmering.
2. Off the heat, whisk egg yolks in a heatproof bowl or on top of a double boiler until they become pale. Place over the simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is thick enough to hold a trail from the whisk and begins to hold its shape when drizzled from the whisk, about 3 minutes.
3. Whisking constantly, add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until each addition is incorporated completely before adding the next. When all the butter has been added, season with lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. The sauce should be thick but still able to drizzle from a spoon (and it should form a pool, not a mound). If it is too thick, thin it with a little water.
4. The sauce is best if used immediately but can sit for about an hour over hot water in a bain-marie or in a Thermos.
After running through this process, Martha shocked us by whipping out a blender and giving us an alternate, easier method. If you go that route, add the egg yolks and melted, slightly cooled butter into the blender and fire it up. Then add the rest of the above ingredients while the blender spins on low. BOOM! Hollandaise. Who knew?
Now, the rest of these recipes for beurre blanc, béchamel and marinara are going to seem a bit more makeshift because they're taken down from TV, but rest assured, they're step-by-step what Martha says to do. And for the record, she doesn't indicate how much this makes, so that detail is lacking. One can safely assume, though, they each make enough for whatever you're having for dinner.
1 1/2 cups white wine
1/2 cup fine champagne or white wine vinegar
2 sticks of butter, cold, cut into tablespoons
2 shallots, finely minced
Herbs of your choice, chopped. Optional.
Pinch of white pepper
1. In a shallow saucepan, bring white wine, vinegar and shallots to a boil, then lower heat to reduce.
2. Add a few tablespoons of butter at a time and melt them into the reduction. Whisk constantly.
3. Add herbs, if desired, and white pepper.
Martha poured this over steamed lobster tails, which looked like an excellent idea.
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups of whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add in flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. (Creating a rue.)
2. Whisk in milk for 20 minutes
3. Add cayenne pepper
4. Grate in nutmeg
Martha then turned this creamy sauce into a mac and cheese, the recipe (and my test of it) appear on the next page. Upon plating it, Martha proclaimed, “You're ready for your mac and cheese!” But caught herself. She'd previously stated this was a sophisticated version of the dish. “Or, your macaroni and cheese,” she corrected.
About 6 large Plum and Beefsteak tomatoes, skinned
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1. In a large saucepan, soften garlic in olive oil
2. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
3. Bring to a boil, cook until reduced
4. Run through a food mill to remove seeds and fibers
There was no way we were testing this one out, as only one marinara recipe crosses our kitchen threshold, and that's our Sicilian grandmother's. Instead we opted for the macaroni and cheese, the written recipe for which was also graciously provided by Martha's crew. Here it is, and after, see how it went for us.
Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 pound dried elbow macaroni
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated Italian fontina cheese
2/3 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
1 2/3 cups finely grated extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of white pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add pasta; salt generously and cook pasta to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.
2. Melt butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until bubbling but not browning, about 45 seconds. Add milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon (scrape across the bottom and around edge of pot to prevent scorching), until thickened and smooth. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
3. Add fontina, Gruyere, cheddar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, stirring until completely melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and black pepper, add cayenne and nutmeg, and stir to combine.
4. Add pasta to sauce along with white pepper and salt; stir to thoroughly combine. Serve immediately.
So first up, of course, we made a rue.
We added the milk and whisked and whisked, then waited the recommended 20 minutes. The sauce formed quickly, though it kept developing a skin we had to stir away. Perhaps the heat was too low. Or too high? Not sure.
We'd toyed with the idea of using yellow cheddar, even though Martha recommended white. All the white cheese in our grocery basket looked a little lifeless, but we bought them anyway, not wanting to stray from her well-marked path. All grated together they somehow looked whiter, and melted into the béchamel, whiter still.
Though we made the recommended half pound elbow macaroni, it somehow wasn't quite enough. This sauce seemed like it would have accommodated damn near a whole pound. Perhaps we didn't reduce the béchamel enough?
Still, we have to give it up to her, because it tasted fantastic, even if we did feel inclined to serve it in Fiestaware to add a little color.
Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife. Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page.