By Wynter Holden
It all started at a recent weekend brunch. Things were running pretty smoothly, until two of the girls at the table next to me started a vicious sauce debate that threatened to come to blows. Or at least a good catfight. Now, don't get me wrong, I love sauce. I can't eat my shoe-leather-like well done steak without A-1 or Heinz 57, I'll eat cardboard if it's dipped in a good barbecue sauce and penne ala vodka practically makes my toes curl in delight. But the great béchamel vs. béarnaise vs. hollandaise debate of 2008? Does anyone really care?
I changed my mind after a recent trip to Bacchanal Greek Restaurant, where my citrus-allergic friend Mr. T (sadly, not the Mr. T of A Team fame) spit out a mouthful of meat-stuffed grape leaves in avgolemano because he failed to realize that the Greek sauce is made with lemon. Inside I was screaming, "Duh, ask the waiter if you don't know what it is," but instead I offered him some of my béchamel-coated moussaka (think eggplant lasagna). After all, who am I to judge?
So while I'll leave the fancier sauce explanations to Paula Deen or Naked Chef Jamie Oliver or heck, Rachel Ray, here's a quick primer on some basic sauces:
Avgolemano vs. Hollandaise: As Mr. T can tell you, the former's a Greek sauce of egg yolks, meat or veggie broth and lemon juice. The French Hollandaise is very similar, with butter instead of broth (and thus, a heck of a lot more fat) and some added spices. If you've had Eggs Benedict, Hollandaise is the creamy yellow stuff drizzled over the top.
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Béchamel vs. Béarnaise: Béchamel is a creamy medium-thin white sauce made with scalded milk and roux (butter and flour). Onions, cloves and other spices may also be added. My southerner hubby swears the French just bastardized country gravy and called it something fancy. Béarnaise is a popular steak topping made with spiced vinegar, butter, egg yolks and shallots. Debate over, bickering biddies at Lon's Sunday brunch! (You know who you are.)