Friday, September 15, 2006

Béarnaise sauce

Eggs are wonderful things. Eggs are even more wonderful when you get to meet the chook that layed them that morning and she’s pretty chilled out and happy, or you meet the person who collected them that morning. You can use them whole, you can split them into different parts and put them back together again (as I’m going to do in the next recipe I post) or you can make entirely different things out of them. So as the natural order would have it, when you make pavlovas you can then make Béarnaise sauce (or Hollandaise), and when you make Béarnaise sauce, you can then make a pav. I’m sure someone will try and use this as an argument for intelligent design.

Larousse Gastronomique dates Béarnaise sauce to 1818 where the recipe first appeared in la Cuisinière des villes et des campagnes. So while it may have been used to honour Henry IV (who came from Béarn) at the opening of Le Pavillion Henry IV restaurant in Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris in 1836, Larousse contends this is not it’s first appearance in culinary history and that its origins are much older from the province Béarn, near the Spanish border.

It’s basically an emulsion so you have to love standing over a stove whisking. Fortunately I find this quite therapeutic.

For the reduction:
½ cup tarragon vinegar
3 shallots, finely diced
8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Place all these in a small pan on a medium heat and let them come to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by 75% and you have a tablespoon of concentrated glaze. Strain and discard the solids.

For the sauce:
The reduction (above)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh French tarragon (coming into season now)
4 egg yolks
250 g salted butter, cut into cubes and chilled.

Over a simmering pot of water place a large bowl, making sure the water can’t touch the bowl and the simmer is not too strong. Add the egg yolks and reductions and begin whisking them until they start to look a shade lighter. One cube at a time, whisk the butter into the eggs. As each cube melts add another until all the butter and egg is combined and you have a thick glossy sauce. It should take about 5 minutes to whisk in all the butter. Remove from the heat and add the fresh tarragon.

We had this sauce with T-bone steaks purchased from a traditional country butcher. They looked like they’d come off a brontosaurus, not a cow. The hostess with the most-ess had been told by the butcher that by ordering steaks this way she’d “just re-defined Father’s Day barbeques”. Well marbled , and after some weighty discussion, they were cooked in a similar fashion to the way you’d cook Wagyu – that is, not on too high a heat, with more frequent turning, to allow the marbling to melt through the meat, leving it perfectly juicy and pinkly medium rare.

Another good tip for any leftover Béarnaise, which hates being re-heated and will certainly split if too much heat is applied, if you want to bring it back to room temperature or just above, place a serving amount in a small bowl and place the bowl in another bowl half full of tap hot water. Stir it every minute or so and it will start to liquefy without splitting.


Blogger neil said...

You know what? I'm going to buy some steaks just so I can have this, haven't made it in years, thanks for the reminder.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

No worries Neil - hoop you enjoy it!

8:01 AM  

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