Doug and I trekked all the way to Midland, Michigan, this past weekend to pay a visit to Doug’s lovely parents, Jim and Diane Clark. Now, Jim and Diane are very busy folks, so complicated dishes and menus aren’t on their everyday agenda. Besides, Jim is one of the pickier eaters I’ve ever cooked for. (Sorry, Jim, it’s true. Props to you, Diane, for cooking for him for so long!)
To say that Jim is a meat-and-potatoes guy would be a serious understatement—that’s really pretty much all he eats. As I was contemplating what to make for him, I was tempted to make steak au poivre, or peppercorn-crusted steak with a cognac cream sauce. That might be on the menu next time, because Jim suggested I try my hand at a Béarnaise sauce.
I’d made béarnaise sauce in culinary school (it’s a derivative of Hollandaise, one of the five mother sauces in French cuisine), but I’d yet to try it at home, so I was excited for the culinary adventure. Many of the recipes I found online called for a blender, but I was worried about the raw eggs and about the sauce not coming together properly if I used that method. So I skipped the blender and reached for that trusty kitchen tool, the whisk.
While this recipe is fairly easy, it does call for some old-fashioned elbow grease. It’s imperative to whisk vigorously while very slowly pouring the butter into the whipped egg yolks. This technique ensures that the butter and eggs emulsify correctly and that the egg yolks will not overcook and scramble. Yes, it requires some arm strength and a little patience, but you’ll be rewarded with a perfect restaurant-quality béarnaise sauce. Need something else besides steak to put that béarnaise on? It would go great with asparagus!
I couldn’t find fresh tarragon in Midland, so I substitute dried tarragon. However, I’m positive fresh would produce the best results. Like any good steakhouse, I served the béarnaise over cooked-to-order strip steaks with a homemade Caesar salad, purple mashed potatoes (so fun!), turmeric roasted cauliflower and carrot cake for dessert. Look for both the cauliflower and carrot cake recipes in the coming week. Bon appétit!!
This recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence. I kept his ingredients but used a method I learned in culinary school so that the egg yolks are heated to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. The original recipe was done in a blender but did not include cooking the eggs to a safe temperature. If you believe your eggs are safe, go ahead and use a blender. If you can’t find shallots, onion is a fine substitute. Click here to download a copy of this recipe
¼ c. chopped fresh tarragon leaves, or 2 Tbs. dried tarragon
2 shallots, minced
¼ c. champagne or white wine vinegar
¼ c. dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc or Chablis
3 egg yolks
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the béarnaise reduction. In a small saucepan, combine the tarragon, shallots, vinegar and wine over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Combine béarnaise reduction and egg yolks. In a metal or pyrex bowl set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water, whip egg yolks and béarnaise reduction together until warm to the touch. Very slowly drizzle in the melted butter, whisking vigorously to combine.
Whisk until thickened. Keep the bowl over the simmering water, whipping until the sauce emulsifies and thickens, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep warm until service. The sauce will continue to thicken as it sits. Whisk or add in some warm butter to thin out the sauce if necessary.