bernaise sauce


I feel we always discuss the seasons relative to what fruits, vegetables, fish and meat we are buying and eating. But to me, the seasons are just as much about how I feel. I want that blueberry pie in July at the beach and a lentil soup while wearing a fisherman’s sweater in February. One other thing I want this time of year, with pretty much everything and anything, is some béarnaise sauce. It’s a classic with poached eggs, but equally great with French fries, steamed fish, a simple steak or even some raw fennel for dipping. Have you ever tried it with wedges of oven-dried tomatoes? Or a bowl of steamed clams? Tackling a classic, iconic sauce like this at home can be daunting, but it’s really pretty simple and the taste is uniquely delicious. I make it close to when I intend to eat it and keep it by the stove, warm, until ready to serve.

I always learned to make it with clarified butter, but here I make it with gently melted regular butter. This is also a good place to splurge on some nice butter or even a type of butter you have never had before. Something about the eggs with the vinegar and herbs meandering through makes the butter flavors come to life. It almost tastes more like butter than butter by itself!

 Béarnaise Sauce

Makes about ¾ to 1 cup

1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup dry Vermouth
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 medium shallots, peeled and sliced into rounds
6 sprigs tarragon, leaves removed and reserved
4 sprigs fresh chervil, leaves removed and reserved (use chervil only if available)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, gently melted
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Make the reduction: In a medium pot, combine the white wine, vermouth, red wine vinegar, shallots, tarragon and chervil (if using) stems. Simmer the mixture over medium heat until it cooks down by about two thirds. Remove and discard the herb stems. Set aside.

Make the base of the sauce: In a metal or heatproof bowl that can fit snugly over a snugly pot of simmering water, combine the egg yolks with a splash of water. Off the heat, whisk to blend until it gets frothy, 1-2 minutes. Place the bowl on top of the pot of water and cook, whisking constantly, until the eggs are thickened, 3-4 minutes. Take care not to allow the egg mixture to form a crust on the edges of the bowl. Whisk constantly to avoid uneven cooking. Take care to keep the heat low, as well, to avoid making scrambled eggs instead of the sauce.

Finish the sauce: Remove the bowl from the heat and little by little, whisk in the clarified butter. Add some of the reduction, a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper and taste for seasoning. Chop the reserved tarragon and chervil leaves (if using) and stir them into the sauce. Add more of the reduction, if needed.

alex guarnaschelli

Every week, Alex Guarnaschelli shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.