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Happy Sauce

August 27, 2013

Egg yolks make me happy. Good, rich golden yolks. Those pale yellow flabby ones on most supermarket shelves don’t do much for me.

Here on the farm I’ve been enjoying a lot of gorgeous poached eggs paired with fat slices of home grown summer tomatoes. The kids have been getting egg-in-the-hole-in-the-bread, and it’s always a magical moment when they pierce the egg white in the center to be rewarded with an eruption of golden molten yolk.

Life is pretty good.

One of the most gorgeous things I’ve seen egg yolks do, has nothing to do with breakfast, and everything to do with a simple, but elegant dessert. Seriously, anyone can make it. This dish requires precious few ingredients, but will make you look like a rockstar in the kitchen.

The only hard part is figuring out which pronunciation you want to use.

A couple years ago I wrote a post about how desserts were the gateway dishes that originally got me into cooking. But whisking egg yolks to form a zabaglione was an eye opening experience to how beautiful the transformation of ingredients into food can be.

At the time I was working my way through the dessert section of Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. But this sauce was the model for French sabayon. Call it what you will, but both are made by whisking together egg yolks, sugar and wine. With just a little bit of technique, these combine to form a warm, sweet, rich and frothy sauce that is great for coating fresh fruit. Or, you know, you could just eat it with a spoon on its own.

Truth be told, there are a lot of recipes for how to make it and proportions differ. David Lebowitz first combines the wine with the sugar, and then whisks in the egg yolks. He’s a talented pastry chef, so I’m sure that makes an amazing sauce. However, it would not have led to the epiphany I had all those years ago.

Marcella advocates for beating the egg yolks with the sugar first. Since I was a novice in the kitchen I used an electric hand mixer. I had never done this before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I was supposed to keep beating until pale yellow ribbons formed.

Pale yellow ribbons?

It takes several minutes. Maybe it takes less if you are more aggressive with the double boiler or mixing speeds, but I like to take these things slow. I was working in a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. And I watched the egg yolks and sugar slowly change from a grainy gold, to a smooth yellow, to a pale satin finish. And i could absolutely see the ribbons. I was enchanted. Truly, I never knew egg yolks could be so beautiful.

Since I was making this in the classic Italian style, I used dry marsala wine. Oddly I was carded at the supermarket for this purchase. Seriously, are there really underage kids who are going on marsala benders?

The full recipe can be found here, and I suggest you give it a try.

Now is a great time to do it. You know, when you can still get some summer fruit, but when it’s cooling off a bit in the evening and a warm sauce on top of some fresh berries sounds appealing.

If you’ve ever thought about trying to cook, but it’s just seemed too daunting, this could be a great place to start. The only tricky part is that the sauce expands in volume as you make it. So in the beginning, just use a much much much bigger bowl than you need and everything will be fine.

Enjoy it.

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