Also known as Dutch sauce, hollandaise sauce is a blend of egg yolk, water, melted butter, and lemon juice (can be substituted with vinegar reduction or white wine), mixed well over low heat setting of a double boiler. For seasoning, additional white pepper, salt, or cayenne pepper may be used.
The Haute French cuisine has five mother sauces in its repertoire, and the classic hollandaise sauce is one of them. These sauces are “mayonnaise sauces” because just like mayo, they are egg yolk emulsion-based. Hollandaise is famous as an important component of Eggs Benedict. It is usually paired with veggies like steamed asparagus.
The French Hollandaise sauce translates as Dutch sauce in English. While it implies Dutch origins, little is known as to the reason the sauce was so named. Similar to many dishes, however, links point to the French Huguenots driven out of France during the latter parts of the 17th century, but were able to return to their home country later.
The Huguenots who fled to Holland are credited for bringing the recipe they developed in the foreign country home to France. The first recorded mention of a similar recipe can be found in Le Cuisinier François by François Pierre La Varenne.
Out of the Middle Ages and Into the Present
For bringing the sauce out of the Middle Ages via his publication, La Varenne is believed to have invented the sauce. A sauce that is quite similar to hollandaise called isigny was named after Isigny-sur-Mer, a Norman town that makes the best French butter. Isigny sauce was mentioned in recipe books published in the 19th century, but reports that came out after WWI that it became known as hollandaise sauce, are not accurate.
While learning about the etymology and origin of hollandaise sauce may not have a bearing on the taste and quality of the sauce, the information will give you an idea on how the recipe for the sauce has survived for centuries.