Béarnaise sauce is the best partner for steak. Nothing else even comes close. It strikes the perfect balance between rich and sharp.
It is a common misconception that béarnaise is troublesome to prepare. It is; however, difficult to perfect – I have been honing this recipe for some considerable time. Dispense with the food processor and get back to basics with a whisk and bain-marie to create the perfect consistency. And whatever you do, do not scrimp on the egg yolk and butter – you will be left disheartened with a feeble sauce.
This is my recipe for the perfect béarnaise sauce.
250g Unsalted Butter
3 Large Egg Yolks
4tbsp Chopped Fresh Tarragon
75ml White Wine Vinegar
1 Shallot Finely Sliced
1 Strip Lemon Peel
5 White Peppercorns
1 Small Bay Leaf
Freshly Cracked White Pepper
1) First make the vinegar reduction. Combine the vinegar with 2 tbsp of the chopped tarragon, shallot, lemon peel, peppercorns and bay leaf in a small saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and leave to stand, removing the bay leaf.
2) Next clarify the butter. See this article by Edward Schneider at the NY Times for a concise guide.
3) To make the béarnaise – beat the egg yolks with a whisk over a barely simmering bain-marie until thick and light in colour. Be careful that the water does not get too hot and does not touch the bowl. Ensure no egg yolk sticks to the side of the bowl.
4) Strain the vinegar mixture into the egg yolk to taste and continue to whisk to maintain the thick texture.
5) Turn the heat off the bain-marie. Slowly add the clarified butter a little at a time whilst whisking. Do not rush this stage or you risk the sauce splitting. The sauce should be thick and smooth with an even sheen.
6) Remove the sauce bowl from the bain-marie. Stir in the remaining chopped tarragon and season to taste with sea salt and cracked white pepper. You may need to add a little extra vinegar reduction if you like it extra tangy!
If your sauce does split whilst cooking – do not despair! Remove from the heat and quickly add a small ice cube. Continue to whisk and the sauce should re-emulsify.