Béarnaise sauce (original) is an egg-clarified butter sauce, rich in butterfat. It only differs from hollandaise sauce by replacing lemon juice by tarragon vinegar in the gastrique. Béarnaise sauce goes very well with steak, with salmon and with vegetables such as asparagus. It is a sauce that may separate during preparation. But by keeping the following pointers in mind, it will not happen to you. If you like to make a reduced and healthier fat version, please see our preparation of a béarnaise sauce with a heart healthy streak.
The art of making béarnaise sauce (original)
Making an in-situ sabayon
Béarnaise sauce consists of around 70% butterfat by weight. First a gastrique is made from shallot, crushed pepper, tarragon and optionally chervil, white wine and vinegar. The mixture is reduced by half on medium fire. Then, after having cooled down the gastrique, it is mixed with egg yolks. Then this mixture is heated au bain marie, while whisking to around 163 F (73 C), to make an in-situ sabayon. At this temperature the egg yolk proteins start to denature and are able to incorporate air and fat. Do not over-heat! Using a gastrique with a few drops of oil (eg from glacing the shallot in olive oil) is beneficial. It can create a more stable sauce. The oil droplets will be very effectively dispersed with the egg yolks to form a pre-emulsion, which promotes a more stable overall sauce.
Work just before serving out dinner and keep the sauce warm (not hot)
To the resulting thick foamy sauce we add the molten butterfat slowly under vigorous whisking.
When the sauce cools down, the butter fat droplets become solid and this may result in a sauce that becomes inhomogeneous. Also the organoleptic properties of the sauce will change then for the worse. Therefore a full butterfat sauce requires to be served warm. Serving dinner in a colder environment may already cause the sauce to separate at the end of a dinner.
When you really want to re-use sauce left-overs the next day
Re-heating a separate sauce (for example when stored overnight in the fridge) will not work. The dispersed oil phase (butterfat) has become solid and this will negatively affect its stability. Only by making a new warm sabayon from one or two yolks and then adding the warm, separated sauce under vigorous whisking to the sabayon, can one be successful using the separated sauce again. Replacing the butter fat largely by a neutral tasting vegetable oil will enable you to re-use a refrigerated, but still homogenous béarnaise sauce. Heat the sauce au bain marie by stirring with the whisk.
- double boiler (au bain marie)
- small sieve
For the tarragon vinegar based gastrique
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small shallot
- 2 tbsp tarragon
- 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
Ingredients for the oil phase (ghee)
- 3.5 oz (100 g) butter fat or ghee (made from 4.2 oz (120 g butter)
- 4 egg yolks (total 2.4 oz or 70 g)
Instructions to make the gastrique
Dice the shallot
Heat the olive oil in a small pan and glaze the shallot at medium fire for 5 minutes
Add the vinegar, the wine, the tarragon and add the salt and pepper
Let simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on (low heat) and then increase the fire a bit and take the lid off to let the vinegar and alcohol cook off a little. Aim to keep 1.75 oz (50 g) liquid left
Strain the mixture through a small sieve and press with a spoon the shallot/tarragon mixture in the sieve to release all its juices. Let the gastrique cool down to room temperature and reserve
Instruction to make the oil phase
Instructions to bring the sauce together
Bring egg yolks and gastrique to room temperature. Thereafter mix them in a stainless steel bowl or a metal pan with a whisk ( I prefer a thin bottomed pan or bowl as it is more responsive to the heat that is added or taken away
Heat the bowl au bain marie under constant whisking. After a few minutes the temperature will approach 163 F (73 C) and the mixture will become thicker and more viscous. Continue the whisking for a few tens of seconds, so that you whisk a lot of air in, making an in-situ sabayon. Be careful not to overheat.
Method: au bain marie
Food allergy and intolerance information: milk, egg yolk
- For making the butterfat from butter, please follow the simple procedure for making ghee.