Monday, January 2, 2012

Mastering Sauce Bearnaise

As a guy, I've always loved the classic steak frites with sauce bearnaise, that thick, fat and sharp French sauce the gourmet gods made for us guys. So one day, I decided to learn how to do my own, not the powder stuff but the real thing, made from scratch.

First try was a disaster, the taste was OK, but the texture was way off. It was thin and splitting, and just no good in my perfectionist mind. But my dear friend was so very kind and said he enjoyed it anyway. I didn't buy that though, and spend hours studying the Internet for the perfect recipe and MO. I thought I had cracked the theoretics of the process (I didn't whisk the eggs yolk in the essence enough) and I was ready for the next try with this in mind.

I was hosting the NYE party 2012 at my house, and it was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my new gourmet skills within classic French sauces to my closest friends. So I got cracking, making the perfect essence of shallots, tarragon, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisking in the eggs and then the butter, gently but persistent. And then disaster struck! While juggling the rare steaks, triple cooking the fries and whisking the sauce, the sauce got overheated, and that's a complete no go with an egg emulsion sauce like bearnaise (or hollandaise for that sake). The sauce split like a banana, I was devastated.

Again my lovely friends were very kind and said comforting stuff I didn't really hear, I couldn't get my mind off what went wrong. So the next day, January 1st, I studied even harder, watching superstar chefs making their take on the sauce and I got my theoretical epiphany; whisk persistently (like a crazy person) and control the heat (just take it off the heat), the basis for my two last failures. So that evening, the very first day of the year, with the leftover ingredients from the NYE party, I finally made the perfect sauce bearnaise. Thick, sharp and not split. Immediately, I emailed a picture to all the guests from last night, to prove to them that I could indeed do it.

And I was happy :)

Top tips for the DIY guy:
  1. Use only fresh and organic ingredients, it's just shallots, vinegar, tarragon (for the essence) and egg yolks and clarified butter for the texture and to balance the acidity of the essence
  2. Use 100 g butter for each egg yolk per person
  3. The essence should not be too hot (or the egg yolks will coagulate like scrambled eggs)
  4. Whisk very persistently (and thicken the yolks well before gently adding the butter) and don't stop during the extend of the process