Béarnaise a lovely French sauce for meats that you can find in grocery stores. As will many things, store-bought doesn’t compare to homemade. If you’ve been intimidated to make Béarnaise, with the invention of various blenders, it’s become a much easier to make.
There are many ways to do it. Some are successfully doing it in a pan directly on the stove. Whatever works for you is the right way. Before there were blenders or immersion hand blenders, I was making béarnaise in a bowl over very warm water using a whisk. There’s a ‘feel’ to mastering making hollandaise, always having to be very careful to do it just right every time. The same is true when you use a machine to do the mixing. You still need to follow every step to avoid the disappointment of runny sauce, or worse, sauce that gets too hot and the eggs curdle and separate from the butter. This recipe is for doing it the old fashioned way using a bowl over water which I find to be much easier, less of a mess and less apt to not thicken.
If you’ve already made hollandaise, then you already know what you are doing but you will have to find the right addition of the vinegar, wine herb reduction, just has you had to find the amount of lemon juice that you preferred for your hollandaise.
Most of the recipes you find for béarnaise sauce are made with tarragon. The French way is made with two herbs, tarragon, and one that is more difficult to find, chervil (French parsley). I didn’t know this until I did some research. Now I’m curious and I’ll be on the lookout for the second herb needed to make an authentic béarnaise.
“Béarnaise sauce is a sauce made of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks and white wine vinegar and flavored with herbs. It is considered to be a ‘child’ of the mother Hollandaise sauce, one of the five mother sauces in the French haute cuisine repertoire. The difference is only in the flavoring: Béarnaise uses shallot, chervil, peppercorns, and tarragon in a reduction of vinegar and wine, while Hollandaise is more stripped down, using a reduction of lemon juice or white wine. Its name is related to the province of Béarn, France.”
“Béarnaise is a traditional sauce for steak.”
Shown with mashed cauliflower and braised asparagus.
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons hot water
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
Melt the butter in a small pan that works for pouring the butter out without it running down the pan and on the counter. I have a lipped sauce pan that works very well. One with an indentation for pouring is ideal. Test your pots using water. You don’t want to be in the middle of blending, having to switch the butter to another pan. I set the pan back on the warm burner to keep the melted butter hot as I’m doing the incorporating. If the butter isn’t hot enough, the mixture won’t thicken.
Place a stainless steal bowl over a pan with simmering water. Place the egg yolks in the warm bowl and whisk for 10 seconds. Add the hot water 1 tablespoon at the time. The mixture will become a little frothy but will not thicken yet. After the water is added, begin pouring in the hot butter slowly whisking constantly. When you’ve added about 1/2 to 3/4’s of it, the mixture will thicken. If at any time the eggs start to look like they are cooking, quickly remove the bowl from the pan to the counter to cool it down as you continue whisking.
Whisk in the lemon juice.
For béarnaise add the cooled tarragon mixture below.
Place the vinegar, wine, salt, pepper, shallots and 1 tablespoon of the chopped tarragon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons. Put the reduction through sieve. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of tarragon to the reduction and set it aside while you make the hollandaise.
Note: Hollandaise can be made the day before, refrigerated and reheated. Béarnaise cannot because it will separate. Transfer the hollandaise sauce from the bowl container to a glass jar. Put the jar in the refrigerator immediately (it won’t be very hot) and it can be reheated directly from the refrigerator. Create a bain-marie by setting the jar in a pan of very warm (but not hot) water to reheat, stirring often. If the water is too hot, the eggs will cook and the sauce will separate.
Hollandaise can be made in a blender or immersion hand blender but I think it’s more difficult.
Béarnaise is delicious on fish as well as steak. Hollandaise is best enjoyed on Eggs Benedict.