Bearnaise Sauce

Bearnaise sauce is one of the great classic French sauces, to be served with beef, fish and eggs.  Sometimes there is just nothing better than a delicious pan-grilled steak with béarnaise sauce, some sauté potatoes or chips and a glass of red wine!

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar *
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot (or onion)
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 110g (4ozs) butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 generous tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Method

  1. In a saucepan over a medium heat boil the vinegar, wine, shallot and a pinch of pepper until completely reduce down until just a couple of tablespoonfuls of liquid are left in the pan, make sure it does not burn.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of water and take the pan off the heat to cool down almost completely.  When it has cooled down so that you can just hold your hands around the outside of the pan, place the pan on a low heat and whisk in the egg yolks, then the butter bit by bit.  You do not want the pan to get too hot, if it does the mixture will scramble so keep taking it off and on the heat if it’s in danger of heating up too much (add a tablespoon of water if it does).
  3. As soon as two pieces of butter melt in the sauce, add two more pieces, it will gradually thicken.  When all the butter is in, turn off the heat and add the chopped tarragon and the Dijon mustard.  If the sauce looks very thin, it may be that you were too cautious and the heat was too low, so increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, it should be almost as thick as mayonnaise.  Keep the sauce warm in a bowl over hot but not boiling water, keep heating up the water if it cools down and the sauce will keep for 2 or 3 hours.
  4. Tip: A good thing to keep beside you while you are making Bearnaise for the first couple of times is a bowl of cold water so you can plunge the bottom of the pan into it to cool it quickly if it gets too hot.
  5. Tarragon vinegar can be bought or it can be made quite easily by just placing a couple of whole sprigs of tarragon into a bottle  of white wine vinegar, leave for at least a week for the flavour to develop, leave the tarragon in the vinegar and keep somewhere cool.  It will last for easily a year. 

    *If you don’t have tarragon vinegar, don’t worry just use plain white wine vinegar.