“I once threw my entire Hollandaise down the toilet,” V confessed with a shrug from between the couch pillows. “Oh shit, really? What happened?” “It must have been the wrong recipe – but yours, it was very, very good, honey.” She said, giving my shoulder a loving, reassuring squeeze. “Not 100%, but great,” she continued. I sighed and took a sip of wine. Did she know that I flat-lined but recovered my first Béarnaise sauce?
Ah, the Béarnaise sauce! And today, oh here I thought I could announce how delicious my wild mushroom risotto was and how there wasn’t any left – not even for a church mouse (actually, there wasn’t! And the risotto was seconds-worthygood) but the story must be about this sauce and a side dish. What a tasty, but painful process that needed resuscitation before being served at the 11th hour!
For those of you who are wondering the difference between a Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauce it is this; a Béarnaise is Hollandaise’s sister, the bold sibling sharing the same buttered genes but infused with wine and white or red wine vinegar, tarragon, and shallots. Béarnaise pairs perfectly with steaks or vegetables. It simply is delicious and I’ve been meaning to make it for quite some time.
But go back an hour or two and I was in the kitchen with my two saucepans – one reducing the wine and vinegar to 2 tablespoons and the other with 3 egg yolks, being beat into submission. All was going well and soon I added the butter and the cooled reduction – “Oh wow,” I thought, “If I knew how easy this sauce would be I would’ve started years ago.” With a la-di-da and a final whip, I grabbed a spoon to taste. Oh NO!Well, let me tell you something – that vinegar bitch-slapped me like a Joan Crawford 3 a.m. wire hanger right across my ass. “No – more – whiiiite- vin-ehhh-garrrrr!” Ahh!
There I was, hen-pecking over my mushroom risotto anticipating my Béarnaise would be a sure thing to smother over my zucchini, and it wasn’t. It was dreadful. It was the Umpa-Lumpa on the stove, an orangey-yellow goo with a tarragon-green midget perm.
Problem? I didn’t boil my vinegar down enough. “What are you cooking in here? It smells like feet!” The husband said – after a noticeable delay in serving the food. I silently gave him the spoon to taste and watched his face prune up in a flash. “Cover it! It will hide the vinegar smell! You can smell it everywhere.” I obediently did. Not only did it taste bad – but it smelled bad, too? That was a first.
Pulling myself up by the apron strings, I quickly added more butter, a pinch of salt, a light squeeze of lemon juice, and droplets of boiled water from the kettle. A pinch of sugar also did the trick and I threw it back on the stove-top. Voilà! Fixed. My take away from this? To cook well, I almost think you need to fall flat on your bum and learn. And fall hard. Tonya Harding hard. Learn what works and how ingredients can save the day compliment each other. I have learned a lot over the years through mistakes but perhaps, although not oddly, 2 steps back is 3 steps forward in cookery.
In closing, my Frog Prince Béarnaise sauce was saved in the end and it was absolutely delectable. I ladled it onto the zucchini and my dinner guests asked for more. By the time dinner concluded, there was not one droplet of sauce left. It was spoon-licking good, indeed.
1 1/2 sticks butter (170 grams Metric), room temperature
1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon of dry tarragon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3-4 cranks of fresh-cracked pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley or tarragon
In a small sauce pan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallot, 1 tablespoon of tarragon, and salt/pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Once reduced, let cool.
In a separate sauce pan, beat 3 egg yolks with a wire whip until they lighten in color and begin to foam at the edges (about 3 minutes)
Add 1 tbs of butter to the yolks and pour the reduction through a strainer (catching the shallot pieces and tarragon). Note: If your reduction is too hot, you will scramble your eggs! Make sure you cooled your reduction enough in a pot of chilled water or have left it off the burner for some time. By adding the 1 tbs of butter, it acts as an "insurance" against cooking your egg yolks, too.
Begin to whisk and gradually add your butter in pieces - not all at once, alternating using your burner and moving off/on the burner on low heat. Alternate with heat until you reach a creamy texture.
Taste and correct seasoning
Add the 2 tablespoons of parsley or tarragon, blend, and serve
To reheat: Add droplets of boiling water to the sauce to gain correct consistency, having your sauce pan in a warm bowl of water.
Remember: making a Hollandaise or Béarnaise should be gentle and smooth; using low heat or even mixing over a bowl of hot water.