Servings: 8 Prep: 5 mins Cook: 10 mins Total: 15 mins
Béarnaise sauce is like a cooked mayonnaise, with Tarragon added to it. That’s about as simple as I can put it. It CAN be a bit prickly to make, but it’s got ENORMOUS flavor, is rich with healthy fats and is extremely low carb. It’s also versatile. Put it on your eggs for breakfast or your steak at dinner!
In classical French cooking, there are 5 “mother” sauces. The 5 sauces are Béchamel (thick milky gravy), Espagnole (thick brown gravy), Velouté (thick chicken gravy), Hollandaise (cooked thick eggy gravy) and Tomate (thick tomato gravy). I feel like when I was in cooking school, I was taught that there were actually 7 mother sauces, with the other two being mayonnaise (uncooked thick eggy gravy) and demi-glace (thick veal gravy, made via reduction). The idea is, adding a few ingredients to each of these mother sauces will transform them into a totally new sauce!
Béarnaise sauce is a child of the mother sauce “Hollandaise”. The method of preparation is essentially the same, with some minor variations (the biggest being the tarragon).
My Béarnaise sauce recipe isn’t a “true” Béarnaise. It is, in fact, an abomination. Mine is thoughtfully constructed, tastes VERY similar and just makes more sense to me as a fully realized sauce, even though most French chefs would like to speak French at me … harshly! The big changes are: I’ve omitted chervil, simply because it’s such a challenge to find. If you do find it, add some. It’s delightful!. I’m also not using clarified butter. Instead, I’m using whole melted butter. Butter is roughly 80% butter fat, 19% water and 1% “tasty butter bits” (milk solids). More often than not, water is needed to thin the sauce as it is built. Why not use the water in butter? The milk solids just add more flavor … why remove them? Also, I know Ghee is like the new butter, but … I suspect more people have old-school butter than ghee. It is also common to strain out the shallots. I never do this. I like them! Finally, I’m adding a smidgen of heavy cream. This is purely optional, but because a cooked egg based emulsion can be such a fickle sauce, the store bought homogenized cream helps the emulsion take place and HOLD.
Each of these variations take a step further away from a true Béarnaise. Escoffier is probably turning in his grave, but … he evolved food from his predecessors … I’m simply throwing in my spin!
Video Note: Béarnaise sauces can break very easily and make something that looks like scrambled eggs, floating in oil. Here’s a little video that shows how easy is it to fix!
Béarnaise SaucePrint Rate
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup white wine good quality
- 4 each shallots fine dice
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 tbsp cream heavy whipping (homogenized)
- 1 cup fresh whole butter melted
- 4 sprigs fresh tarragon leaves only (chopped)
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil, or the base of a double boiler.
- In a separate non-reactive sauce pot, place your vinegar, wine and shallots. Bring to a simmer and reduce by just over half. Your shallots should be translucent and you should have about 3 tbsp of liquid.
- Pour your wine mixture into a large non-reactive metal bowl, or the top of a double boiler. Add your egg yolks and optional cream. Whisk this mixture together.
- Place your egg mixture over the top of the water and whisk, furiously, while VERY slowly dripping in your melted butter. If the eggs start to cook or scramble too quickly, remove the sauce from above the boiling water, while continuing to whisk and add more of the butter. Alternate putting the sauce above the water and removing it. You want to heat the eggs and cook the emulsion, but do it delicately, so as not to break the sauce or SCRAMBLE the eggs.
- Continue this process of slowly heating the bottom of the bowl or the top of the double boiler, while whisking the melted butter into it. The sauce should thicken and form something like a yellow mayonnaise. As you near the bottom of your butter, you will see some milky looking water. Use this to thin the sauce out, to the desired consistency. You may not need it all.
- Finally, add your chopped tarragon, salt and pepper. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve!
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