An absolute beauty, there’s nothing quite like classic béarnaise sauce to elevate your meals. Whether you’ve made a piece of fish, poultry, or meat, I guarantee that béarnaise sauce will make it taste 10x better!
To know what béarnaise sauce is made up of is to know why it’s so incredibly delicious. Béarnaise sauce is known in the culinary world as the spunkier daughter of hollandaise.
At it’s core, béarnaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter. Unlike hollandaise, béarnaise gets its flavor from fresh tarragon rather than lemon.
In France, a special herb called chervil is used in the sauce as well. Chervil is identified as a type of French parsley.
The Tarragon Reduction
Fresh tarragon, however, is really the star ingredient over any other herb in a béarnaise sauce. Without it, the sauce simply wouldn’t be béarnaise.
The tarragon is first cooked with minced shallot, white wine vinegar, and dry white wine. This mixture is cooked in a saucepan until it’s reduced to just a tablespoon worth of liquid. The reduction is then added to the sauce.
While béarnaise sauce is made up of simple ingredients, it is definitely a tricky sauce to master. If you cook the eggs over a heat too high, they’ll scramble. If the eggs never get warm enough, then you’ll be whisking all day for them to thicken.
Béarnaise sauce can definitely be a temperature game.
It’s also a test of patience. If you pour the butter into the egg mixture too quickly, your sauce will be too runny and will never emulsify properly.
But don’t worry; mishaps like these can be fixed! Plus, I’ve found an easier workaround to what professional chefs typically do to make béarnaise sauce.
Traditionally, if you see a chef making béarnaise sauce, you’ll see them moving their saucepan on and off the heat consistently. This is to constantly monitor the temperature of the egg yolks so that they don’t scramble.
I’ve found that by placing a bowl over a saucepan filled with a little bit of simmering water, you can successfully thicken your eggs without worrying too much about them scrambling.
Because when you do create a perfect béarnaise sauce, you’ll want to use it on everything. I particularly love serving the béarnaise sauce with a classic steak, roast beef, lamb, and slow-cooked meat, like the pictured short ribs here.
You can even use béarnaise sauce on your burgers with mushrooms and caramelized onions. Talk about fancy!
A creamy French sauce flavored with fresh tarragon. A perfect accompaniment to meat, poultry, and fish. Makes about 1 heaping cup.
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar (15 grams)
- 1/4 cup white wine (60 grams)
- 2 tbsp minced tarragon (5.3 grams) divided
- 1 tbsp minced shallot (10 grams) or minced onion
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (113 grams) melted
- freshly ground pepper
In a small saucepan, add the white wine vinegar, white wine, 1 tbsp of minced tarragon, and the minced shallot. Cook over medium-low heat until you're left with just 1 tbsp of liquid in the pan. Let this mixture completely cool.
In a medium bowl set over a small saucepan filled with gently simmering water (set over low heat), add the tarragon-vinegar reduction along with the egg yolks and tablespoon of cold water. You can either strain the reduction for a smoother sauce, or simply combine it as is with the egg yolks and water. Constantly whisk the mixture together until it's thick enough to look like runny pudding.
Pour the melted butter, one tablespoon at a time, into the mixture. Whisk the mixture well after each addition (basically, pouring the butter should NOT be a gradual stream but rather a drop by drop process). Once combined, whisk in 1/4 tsp of salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Taste test to add more salt or pepper, if desired. The final sauce should be thick like mayonnaise, but still stream off your spoon in a very slow and steady manner. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of tarragon. Serve lukewarm.
If your sauce is too thick, you can stream in a little warm water (a drop at a time) to loosen it up.
If your sauce is too thin, take a clean bowl and set it over a small saucepan with gently simmering water. Whisk an egg yolk with a drop of cold water in this clean bowl. Very slowly add your sauce, drop by drop (like you did with the melted butter), into the egg mixture and continue stirring until it thickens up to your desired consistency.
If you start getting some slight clumps, you may be able to fix the sauce by quickly moving the bowl over to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Then you can vigorously whisk the clumps out. If it's not working, it's best to start over.