Keep your eye on the béarnaise

The very first time I laid eyes on this Pepper-Crusted Filet Minion recipe from Chow, I knew I had to try it. What sold me was the béarnaise sauce, something I’ve never had before. Considered to be the “child” of Hollandaise sauce, I knew it was probably not a wise choice for my hips, but I can rationalize cooking anything once for the sake of the blog. In the battle between eating healthy and getting inspired to try something new for the blog, you my fine readers, won out.

I would highly recommend you try this sometime when you want to eat like French royalty. Just don’t take your eye off the sauce or you’ll wind up with scrambled eggs.

In my typical fashion, I deviated from the steak recipe. Basically I just took a flank steak, coated it in some butter and covered it in black peppercorns. We cooked it medium rare on the grill. I’m sure if you follow the recipe, it will be just as good if not better, but who has the time to get technical?

Well, you better be, because the béarnaise sauce is a bit of a bear, but it’s worth it.  You will need:

  • 1/3 cup champagne or white wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 5 sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves removed and finely chopped
  • Reserved tarragon stems
  • 6 whole black peppercorns, crushed (I used a rough chop on a peppermill)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh chervil (optional – I didn’t use)
  • Salt and pepper

In a medium frying pan, combine the vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon stems and crushed peppers and bring them to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the liquid is reduced to just over two tablespoons.  Strain the vinegar mixture with a fine mesh strainer. Be sure to press on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Fill a medium saucepan with about one-inch of water and bring it to a bare simmer over low heat. This is important. If the water is too hot, your sauce will tend to get clumpy.

Add the egg yolks to the vinegar mixture and whisk to combine. Set the vinegar-yolk mixture over the simmering water and cook it, whisking constantly until the yolks thicken and the mixture forms ribbons when you lift the whisk from the bowl.

Be sure to check that your water has not boiled away by periodically removing the bowl from the saucepan. Do not let the water boil or your eggs will curdle.

Begin whisking in the butter pieces one at a time, making sure each piece is melted before adding the next piece. Continue until all the butter has been added. Remove the sauce from the heat. Add a few drops of water if it’s too thick.

Whisk in the chopped tarragon leaves and chervil (if using). Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over steak.


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