Béarnaise sauce

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This bérnaise sauce recipe features lots of clarified butter, egg yolks, a little tangy vinegar, and the slightly grassy flavor of tarragon. It is served hot, most often as an accompaniment to grilled steaks, and should be made just before serving.

Hot emulsion sauces have a reputation for being difficult to make, but that adds to their mystique. The key to success is to carefully follow each of the steps. Most importantly:

– Slowly melt and completely clarify the butter. That just means you need to skim off the solid proteins that are floating on top of the melted butter.

– Use a double boiler to gently cook the egg yolk mixture. If you cook them too quickly or add too much heat, they will curdle.

– Add the liquid butter slowly to the egg yolk mixture and don’t stop whisking. It’s the same principle as for making mayonnaise.


7 ounces unsalted butter, melted and clarified
1/4 cup very finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
3 egg yolks
salt and pepper

To clarify butter, melt it over low heat without stirring. Once it has melted remove from heat and skim off the solids floating on top.

Place shallots, tarragon, vinegar and wine on medium heat and boil for about 5 minutes. Strain the reduction – you should end up with about 2 tablespoons of liquid.

Set up a double boiler arrangement with a Pyrex bowl and a saucepan. Place the egg yolks in the bowl and whisk in the reduced vinegar. Place bowl in pan of simmering water and cook, whisking continually, until mixture thickens – about five minutes.

Remove from heat and very slowly whisk in clarified butter. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.