Sauce Béarnaise ☆

In my earlier recipe for Bare-Knees Sauce I described the contents and history of Béarnaise sauce, but then presented a recipe for a knock-off version more suited to my own dietary guidelines. However, I recently found an old 3“×5” card in my recipe box with the more standard presentation that I had used in earliler times, before the guidelines became important. It was given to me by my friend, Horace Stringham, whom I have described elsewhere in these ramblings, as the best home-chef that I have ever known. If your diet is unfettered with resrictions, I heartily recommend it.

There are other, perhaps more convenient, methods of preparation than that given below, using a food processor or immersion blender and even a microwave oven. The one below is the classic method.

  • 1 oz tbsp dry white wine
  • 1 oz white wine vinegar
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp dried chervil
  • ¼ lb butter
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Put the vinegar, wine, shallot, black pepper, and herbs into a small saucepan. Under a medium heat setting, bring the mixture just to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Maintain the simmer until the liquid is reduced by one half, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, carefully pass the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible, and set aside to cool.

Fill a small saucepan or the bottom of a double boiler with an inch or two of water, and set over medium-high heat to boil.

Put the cooled strained mixture into a metal mixing bowl or the top of the double boiler, along with a tablespoon of water, the egg yolks, and remaining tarragon, then whisk to combine.

Turn the heat down to a low setting, and put egg mixture on top. Make sure that the bowl or pan does not touch the water directly.

Whisk the yolks continually and vigorously until they just begin to thicken, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. The volume of the egg mixture should just about double in volume.

Slowly beat in the butter, a tablespoon or two at a time, whisking slowly to combine and emulsify. Remove the mixture from the boiler occasionally, so as not to overcook the eggs, and taste the sauce. Season with salt to taste. If the flavor is not deemed sharp enough, add a splash of lemon juice. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a splash of hot water. When the butter is fully incorporated, serve.

Makes about 1 cup.