Bearnaise sauce is simply a derivative of hollandaise, one of ‘the 5 mother sauces‘ in French cuisine. Therefore, when making your bearnaise sauce, you will start off with a basic hollandaise sauce but tweak the recipe just a bit. When it comes to this sauce, the key difference is the flavorings that are added at the end of preparing of the sauce.
The origin of this sauce is France. The invention of the bearnaise sauce is credited to Chef Collinet. This sauce was served for the first time at the 1836 opening of Le Pavillon Henri IV, which was a restaurant located at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just out of Paris.
The name of the sauce probably comes from the fact that the restaurant was named after Henry IV of France who came from the Béarn region in southwest France.
History and background
As I have already mentioned, this sauce is simply a child of the hollandaise sauce. The key difference between the two sauces is in flavoring. Hollandaise sauce is known to be more stripped down as it uses a reduction of lemon juice or white wine. However, when making bearnaise sauce, one has a variety of flavorings to choose from.
A typical bearnaise persist of : Vinegar, tarragon, egg yolks, shallots, chervil and white peppercorns.
How to make Bearnaise sauce
The sauce is primarily clarified butter, a shallot, egg yolks and just a bit of tarragon and vinegar. However, just like the hollandaise sauce, it takes years in order to perfectly master how to create the perfect bearnaise. A well prepared bearnaise sauce is smooth and creamy. It should also be opaque and have a light yellow-ish color.
There are several different ways to prepare the sauce. Nevertheless, the most common method of preparation is bain-marie. In this method, a reduction of vinegar is used to acidulate the egg yolks.
The second method of preparing bearnaise sauce is called Escoffier. In this method, you will need a reduction of white wine, fresh chervil, fresh tarragon, shallots completed by crushed peppercorns which will eventually get strained out. In this method, fresh chervil and tarragon are used to finish the sauce instead of using lemon juice. This is the method I normally use and will explain in the recipe below.
There is also a simpler version of this sauce that is known as faux bearnaise sauce. This sauce can be made by adding tarragon and capers to a hollandaise sauce and voila- you are good to go. If you like the taste of this then go ahead and make your life a bit easier but I indeed think there is a difference in that ‘express’ method and the ‘real’ method I will show you.
Do not be afraid to improve and try out new things with your bearnaise. As you go along the process, you will simply swap out a few ingredients with their alternatives and find your very best recipe.
Just like the hollandaise sauce, there are several sauces that can be derived from the bearnaise sauce such as: sauce Paloise, Sauce Colbert, sauce Foyot as well Sauce Choron.
What does Bearnaise go well with?
Bearnaise sauce has a very unique taste. This sauce is ideally served with steak but goes well with most kind of meat. The thickness of the sauce as well as its taste will add even more flavor to your meat.
- 200 gr clarified butter
- 3 pcs egg yolks
- 3-4 tbsp vinegar sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar or estragon vinegar
- 3-4 tbsp white wine
- 1 pcs shallots
- 1 bunch tarragon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 bit of salt and pepper
- 1 pcs tarragon stalk
- 4 tbsp chervil
- 1 tsp lemon juice may be omitted
- Put water, white wine vinegar, onion, chopped estragon stalk, salt and pepper into a saucepan and cook it until under half of the liquid is left.Let it cool a little and use a sieve to get a nice clear essence.
- Meanwhile melt the butter in another pot at low temperature. Use only the clarified butter after it all has melted.
- Heat the essence and egg yolks in a saucepan (or water bath) at very low heat and during constant whipping.Let the eggs thicken while whipping well. It takes about 2-3 min.
- Start by adding 1 tablespoon of butter while still whipping constantly. Then add one more and so on. Finally you will be able to add the butter in a thin stream while whipping.
- When the sauce is thick and fine, add the estragon, chervil, salt and pepper. Season with lemon if you want to
- If the sauce gets a bit too thick put in some cold water during constant whipping.Serve immediately.