This Bernaise sauce recipe is one of my favorites that I’ve come across. It is actually pretty simple. Many young cooks get scared of making emulsified sauces like Béarnaise or Hollandaise because if you are not careful and masterful you can “break” the sauce, the emulsion falling apart, ruining the sauce. However, with a few tips it is actually not that hard to make a great Bearnaise sauce.
Bearnaise is a French sauce made of butter and egg yolks, flavored with herbs. It is related to the mother sauce, Hollandaise. It is traditionally served with steak. It is in fact a perfect accompaniment for many steaks and this Bernaise sauce recipe will really shine with your grilled steak or other steak preparations. However, it can also be served over other hearty foods that need a bit of liquid and flavor like halibut or swordfish steaks or boiled potatoes.
A Béarnaise sauce is best for steaks that do not have a lot of flavor on there own, that you want to amp up and intensify with a sauce. For example, filet mignon, or beef tenderloin, while being very tender (as the name implies) does not have a lot of marbling, the veins of fat that run through the meat. This marbling is what melts and infuses steak with a lot of its rich, intense, juicy flavor. Without the marbling, the very tender filet does almost melt in your mouth because of how tender it is, but it doesn’t bowl you over with intense flavor. Therefore, these types of cuts are often served with a sauce to help bolster the flavors and take things up a notch. Other examples of sauces often served with filet mignon include port or wine reduction sauces. However, really any steak tastes great with a good Bernaise sauce. But purists would insist that a great, marbled, prime porterhouse or New York strip steak are best left alone to allow their own unique flavors to shine.
What you will need for this Bernaise sauce recipe:
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 3 egg yolks (at room temp)
- 1 cup Chardonnay or other rich, dry white wine
- 3 tbsp tarragon wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp dried tarragon
- 3 tbsp finely chopped shallots
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
How to Cook this Bernaise Sauce Recipe:
- Over very low heat, gently melt the butter until it has just turned to liquid. Do not boil. Let cool completely to room temperature.
- Mix the wine, vinegar, tarragon and shallots in a small pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer to reduce to about 1/4 of the initial volume (about 20 minutes, the pictures show before and after reducing). Let sit and cool to almost room temperature.
- Off heat, whisk the yolks into the room temperature soft butter in a bowl. Heat slowly on low heat or in a Bain-Marie while whisking until not eggy flavored (about 5 to 15 minutes). This is the critical part of any Bernaise sauce recipe. If you heat too fast or too high the emulsion will break. You do not want it to boil! While more advanced chefs can do this on a burner over very low heat by moving the pan on and off the heat periodically to control it, it is easiest to do it in a double boiler. If you don’t have a real double boiler or bain marie don’t worry! You can use a pyrex dish or saucepan lowered into a larger pot with boiling water, as pictured here. This helps control the heat and the rate of heating considerably. You still need to continue stirring or whisking and keep a close eye on it. If it looks like it is getting too hot or close to boiling, immediately pull it off heat for a while, continuing to stir. Dip your finger and taste a bit when you think it is ready. It should be rich and creamy, but not eggy, like a raw egg yolk. At this point it is ready. Simply take it off heat.
- Once off heat, slowly add the shallot, tarragon, wine, and vinegar mixture which has cooled somewhat. Mix gently and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper to get it to your desired flavor intensity.
Your Bernaise sauce is now done and you can pour over your grilled filet mignon or whatever you want to wake up the flavor of!