A Little Dab Will Do Ya

Julia Child noted in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that “Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking, yet there is  nothing secret or mysterious about making them.” This is so absolutely true. A good sauce can elevate an ordinary meal to something spectacular and while a Hollandaise or Bechamel may sound French and scary, there’s really nothing to it. And most basic sauces are made with things you probably already have on hand: butter, eggs, flour, some stock or broth. And once you learn to make some basic sauces, and you’ve mastered their techniques, you can start to expand, making your own: adding some herbs, cheese, or anything else that sounds good.

A good French sauce usually starts with cream or butter. Two things that I usually stay away from, but as Julia herself said “Everything in moderation… including moderation.” The thing about good sauces is that you don’t need much of them. In fact, a very good sauce will do its job in just a dab or two. So indulge away. Julia would.

Served over salmon - a perfect, buttery complement.

Hollandaise served over salmon – a perfect, buttery complement.

Hollandaise with Dill

Serves 4


  • 4 egg yolks (fresh and local, if possible)
  • 1 Tb lemon juice
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted, but not hot
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 C. chopped, fresh dill


  1. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.
  2. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk in salt and dill. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce sits for awhile and gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

I got these eggs from a little farm stand down the street and the dill came through my co-op from Vaughan Farms in Virginia Beach. When you’re dealing with so few ingredients and with such an intensified flavor, you’d do well to use the best, freshest ingredients you can get. Again, Julie backs me up when she says “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

What are your favorite sauces? Or your favorite indulgences?


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