Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Sauce Béarnaise (Warm emulsified sauce derived from Hollandaise sauce) with Steak

::Whisk Wednesdays::
Welcome to Whisk Wednesdays!
I now have a few more buddies who will join me as I cook my way through a cooking school curriculum. Find out more HERE. You should join us!

Béarnaise sauce

Now that we've completed the mother sauces, we're into the derivative ones and Béarnaise is one of the best. It's based on hollandaise but has an added flavor boost from a reduction of wine, shallots, wine vinegar, tarragon, and black peppercorns. Again, it’s an emulsification of eggs and butter, but with extra flavor from the herb and vinegar reduction. Traditionally, it’s served on beef, but it would be delicious on anything!

There are variations to the traditional recipe. Sometimes chervil, thyme, parsley, or bay is used as well as tarragon. Some use red wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar. Some recipes call for clarified butter and some for regular, room temperature butter. Some call for a blender while the more traditional recipes use just a whisk.

The last time I made Béarnaise was for the millennium celebrations in 1999. I remember using a blender and serving this sauce over tenderloin with shrimp and scallops on top as a garnish (à la The Keg). Pretty ritzy, eh? I haven’t made it since, but now it may be on our regular menu!

According to History of Sauces by Linda Stradley (What’s Cooking America), the sauce was created by Chef Jules Colette at his restaurant Le Pavillon Henri IV and served in the 1830s, but the sauce was named after Henri IV who was a gourmand born in Béarn, France and was King of France from 1589 to 1610.

"Don't be saucy with me Béarnaise..."
I had trouble when I made Béarnaise the first time. I added the clarified butter too fast, and it threw a tantrum and broke. I quickly consulted the cookbook, which told me to throw an ice cube into the mix to cool it off. This didn’t work. The next thing the cookbook suggested was to take a new pot, add a bit of cold water, and then add a ladle full of the sauce and whisk. Once that was smooth, add a bit more broken sauce to the fresh pot. Slowly, and ever patiently I whisked. And it worked! Thankfully, my eggs didn’t curdle so I was good to go. By this time, the T-bone steaks were ready, everyone was hungry, and I took a few casual photos and dug in. Later, looking at the photos, I realized I should have spent more time on the photo shoot!

A second Béarnaise sauce for lunch later in the week, no sauce tantrums (was I more patient or was it the room temperature butter?), more time with the photo shoot, and this time sauce spread leisurely over fried chicken, and again it was delicious!

I had some leftover Béarnaise sauce and attempted to re-heat it for supper. I put the burner on low, poured my leftover sauce into a clean pot, added 1 tablespoon of very hot water, and whisked like mad. Without stopping, I continued whisking, dipping my finger in for a heat-and-taste test, until the sauce was warm enough to drape over my leftover chicken. It worked, and it was delicious!

"A Béarnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot,
a little tarragon vinegar, and butter,
but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect."
–Fernand Point–
Who is Fernand Point?

"I believe Fernand Point is one of the last true gourmands
of the 20th century. His ruminations are extraordinary and thought-provoking. He has been an inspiration for legions of chefs.”
–Thomas Keller–
{On a side note, earlier this week I even made Eggs Benedict for one! It’s extremely dangerous to know how to whip this up on short notice given the amount of butter and the fact that it’s swimsuit season in these parts!}

Choking on Artichokes
On the artichoke front, I choked. This was the first time I’ve cooked artichokes! And I failed. First off, I had to get some tweezers to dig out the sliver of a prickle from one of the buggers. Then, I carefully de-leaved them until I thought I’d gotten to the light green center. After rubbing them lovingly with lemon, I plopped them into boiling water to cook. 30 minutes later, I took them out. I tried to dig out the middle to put the lovely un-broken Béarnaise sauce in, destroying 2 of the 3 chokes in the process. Then, when I finally sat down to eat, I daintily put one in my mouth and couldn’t chew it! Since artichokes are in the recipe for next week, I may try it again, but I need help.

Watch a Pro
Here’s a video showing how to make Béarnaise sauce. This video shows the solids from the reduction being strained and then thrown out, but the version in Le Cordon Bleu at Home keeps these in the sauce, which adds a nice texture to the sauce.

One of a Hundred Ways to Make Béarnaise
Béarnaise sauce
What is Béarnaise Sauce?

Béarnaise sauce mise en placeYou can find the recipe for Béarnaise sauce in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. You can also find a recipe for Salmon with Béarnaise sauce here. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesday group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Béarnaise and steakTasting Notes
The hint of tarragon with its licorice taste, the sharpness of the shallots, and the creaminess of the eggs and butter make Béarnaise sauce the most amazing and delicious sauce yet! I was glad the sauce broke so that I could figure out how to fix it, and I was relieved that it worked. This is definitely a keeper and one I might even try serving for dinner guests, if I’m brave.

Next Week (July 2)
• Sauce Mayonnaise (Basic emulsified sauce) page 30-31
• Salade Messidor (Summer Harvest Salad)

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $446.39 + $5.15 (Béarnaise) + $4.35 (Artichokes) = $455.89

Butter used so far: 6 pounds, 5 tablespoons

. . . . . . . . . .

Next Week (July 2)
• Sauce Mayonnaise (Basic emulsified sauce) page 30-31
• Salade Messidor (Summer Harvest Salad)

Whisk Wednesdays:
If you would like to check out the other Whisk Wednesdays bloggers to see their take on Béarnaise sauce, click Kayte, Shelley, Sara, and Becke. We are up to 5 of us now...why don't you join us? We'd love to have you.


Anonymous said...

Your photos, as always, are amazing and I so want to be you when I grow up.

The Keg looks location close to me, but I do travel occasionally, so I put it in my "check it out" file. Thanks. Oh, and anything "Oscar" be still my heart!

With the artichokes, mine were small, so I took into consideration boiling time, and carryover cooking with that a little, and boiled them until I could just put a tip of a sharp knife in them and they would give a little...that turned out to be just the right amount, I think, as by the time they drained and cooled (a little carryover cooking expected there), they were tender to the knife tip and they did not fall apart. I think I boiled them for maybe 12 minutes. I would think 20 for a regular size, but that 30 might be too long.

So far, so good on the sauces with me...I am a patient whisker...part daydreamer, so that probably helps. I also make it in a double boiler as I don't trust myself with it over direct heat. I made Hollandaise a few times last week to just get the skill down and I made half-recipes each time so I could practice. When I had leftovers, I just put it in a glass bowl with a lid in the frig. It was good to go the next day with no separation, and in one case three days with no separation. I reheated it in the top of a double boiler. I am thinking that maybe I could make the sauce earlier in the day or the day before a dinner party and have it parked in the frig ready to reheat. I did not notice any difference in taste. Of course, the guy who noted that it takes years to perfect these sauces would have a lot to say about that, I am sure. As I gain more experience, so might I...LOL.

Oh, I like cooking with you...we learn so much when we have the experiences of others to add into the mix. Thanks for playing!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I'm going to like reading along with Whisk Wednesdays, I think.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic photos, I relaly feel like I learned alot. I see now how much I have missed from my book not arrivign yet. BUT! I'm having loads of fun. I'm sorry about the artichokes! I wish i could just stop by and cook them with you, they are relaly easy once you get the hang of it. Again, amazingly well written post Shari, superb. I agree with Kayte on her estiamte of time to cook the artichokes, I used the whole artichoke, so it took my 45 minutes. Also, I'm curiosu to make this again ahead of time, and see if I could cut down on my time in the kitchen, in the event of having guests over. For me, make a head stuff is key to dinner parties.

Shelley said...

This is so strange, but I think the reason why I've had such an easy time with these sauces -- punk cook as I am -- is because I've had so much practice with emulsions in my soapmaking hobby.

The bearnaise on fried chicken sounds so incredibly good.

I didn't do the chokes, either. I forgot to buy them at the mega-mondo-gargantuan grocery across town, and neither of the small markets near my house had them. I contemplated the twenty minute drive across town to go back to Mondomart, but gas at $4.08 a gallon deterred me.

Next week, artichokes again on the summer salad!

Anonymous said...


Do you think we could benefit from something like they have at TWD where the "students" can post observations, problems, heads-up, questions, etc.? The reason I am asking is that we keep visitng each other's blogs to read what the others have least I do...LOL.

I was thinking if it was not too much trouble...I don't even know how to do that really, but maybe each week we could have one of those posting bits on the main Whisk Wednesdays blog (yours)and we can post observations and comments there for each other and then on our other blogs we can post the nice little bits to each individual like we do at TWD...what do you think?

Any way to have a "P&Q" with the title of the week or the recipe or whatever?

Just wondering.

Love ya...she says smiling hoping she is not being too much of a pain asking for something else already in addition to the great burden you already have of trying to guide us all through this amazing adventure.


Mari said...

What a great post about a great sauce! I love béarnaise sauce, but I've never made it, so I think it's one to add to my list!

Anonymous said...

Amazing photos - really, you should submit that top one to foodgawker!

Anonymous said...

I think I know what went wrong with your artichokes. Most of the recipes we see are for artichokes quite a bit smaller than the one you show on the plate. Like maybe 2/3 that size. I'd have cooked an artichoke the size of the one you show for 45 min. to an hour. You can test artichokes for doneness two ways I'm sure of. 1) A fork will pierce the base completely without resistance when the artichoke is done. 2) A leaf pulled from the center (when cooking them whole) will easily release when the artichoke is done. I'm really anxious to make this class. Just a couple more days until I'm off work and can COOK!

Lore said...

Your béarnaise sauce looks mighty delicious! Thanks for the tips on how to make it better in case something wrong happens.

Anonymous said...

HI Shari! I got Class 12 finished. What fun! I'm having a blast! Class 13 is ready to go for tomorrow or Tuesday. Hubby is purring, and I'm tickled pink~ See you soon! Glennis