Béarnaise sauce is a sauce made of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks, white wine vinegar and flavoured with herbs. It is considered to be a ‘child’ of the mother Hollandaise Sauce, one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire. The difference is only in their flavouring: Béarnaise uses shallot, chervil, peppercorn, and tarragon, while Hollandaise uses lemon juice or white wine. Its name is related to the province of Béarn, France. In appearance, it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy. Béarnaise is a traditional sauce for steak.
History of Béarnaise Sauce
The sauce was likely first created by the chef Collinet, the inventor of Puffed Potatoes (pommes de terre soufflées), and served at the 1836 opening of Le Pavillon Henri IV, a restaurant at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, not far from Paris. Evidence for this is reinforced by the fact that the restaurant was named for Henry IV of France, a gourmet himself, who was born in the province of Béarn.
Preparation of Béarnaise sauce
A Béarnaise sauce is simply clarified butter, an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar. It takes years of practice for the result to be perfect.
Like Hollandaise sauce, there are several methods for the preparation of Béarnaise sauce. The most common preparation is a bain-marie method where a reduction of vinegar is used to acidify the yolks. Escoffier calls for a reduction of wine, vinegar, shallots, fresh chervil, fresh tarragon and crushed peppercorns (later strained out), with fresh tarragon and chervil to finish instead of lemon juice. Others are similar. Alternatively, the flavourings may be added to a finished Hollandaise (sans lemon juice). A faux Béarnaise can be produced by adding capers and tarragon to a Hollandaise
Derivatives of Béarnaise Sauce
- Sauce Choron is a variation of Béarnaise without tarragon or chervil, plus added tomato purée. It is named after Alexandre Étienne Choron.
- Sauce Foyot is Béarnaise with Meat Glaze (Glace de Viande) added.
- Sauce Colbert is Sauce Foyot with the addition of reduced white wine.
- Sauce Paloise is a version of Béarnaise with mint substituted for tarragon.
- Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat just to melt.
- Boil shallots, tarragon, and peppercorns in vinegar and wine in a nonreactive medium-size saucepan over medium heat until reduced to about ¼ cup.
- Strain into the top of a double boiler.
- Whisk in the egg yolks. Place the top over the bottom of the double boiler containing simmering water. Make sure that the top of the water is below the bottom of the upper part of the double boiler.
- Whisk constantly. The second that the yolk mixture begins to thicken slightly, remove the top of the double boiler from above the hot water and continue whisking.
- Turn off the heat.
- Add four ice cubes to the bottom of the double boiler to cool the hot water a little.
- Put the pan of yolks back above the hot water.
- Whisk in the melted butter, drizzling it in very slowly. If at any time the sauce looks as if it is about to break, remove the top and continue whisking to cool it down or whisk in 1 teaspoon cold water.
- With constant whisking, whisk in the salt and cayenne.
- When all the butter is incorporated, taste and add more salt or cayenne as needed.