Béarnaise is one of the world’s great gastronomical pleasures, and it never fails to impress when served with extravagant cuts of meat like standing rib roast or chateaubriand. If, like me, you’re planning to serve one of these stellar cuts of beef over the holidays, may I suggest some béarnaise on the side?
I made this sauce every day for years in my restaurant, so whipping it up at the last minute is not a challenge for me. I’m surprised, however, at how many good cooks shy away from making béarnaise. Part of the problem is that it needs to be made at the last minute. And because the sauce is essentially an emulsion of egg yolks and butter, it’s very easy to end up with scrambled eggs or a broken sauce, unless you’ve had some practice.
I’m happy to tell you that all of these concerns are past history if you have sous vide equipment, because you can make this sauce in the water oven! The first time I experimented with béarnaise and sous vide, I made the sauce on the stove top (the old-fashioned way) and then transferred it to a glass jar. The jar went into the water oven and I was able to successfully hold the sauce and keep it hot for 4 hours. This seemed pretty terrific because I didn’t have to make the béarnaise at the last minute.
But the idea that maybe I could actually make the sauce in the sous vide machine kept popping up, so it seemed worth a shot. Without any great expectations, I whisked the egg yolks, tarragon reduction, and melted butter in a bowl, transferred the mixture to a zip lock bag, displaced the air in the bag, and put it into the water bath. Forty-five minutes later, the sauce had emulsified. I put it back into a bowl, whisked it vigorously for 20 seconds, and the sauce was absolutely perfect. I don’t know about you, but this seems a brilliant use of the sous vide technique to me. Now anyone can make béarnaise with virtually no effort and certainly no anxiety. Enjoy!
Makes about ⅔ cup
- Preheat the water bath to 175°F (79°C).
- To make the tarragon reduction, combine the vinegar, vermouth, shallot, peppercorns, and chopped tarragon sprigs in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture has reduced to ¼ cup. Strain the reduction through a fine mesh sieve, pressing to extract all of the liquid. Discard the solids. The reduction can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for 3 months.
- Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Add 1½ to 2 tablespoons of the tarragon reduction to the yolks and whisk to combine. The amount of reduction you use is a matter of personal taste, but béarnaise is meant to be piquant (to cut the richness of the meat you serve it with). Add the warm melted butter and the dried tarragon to the mixture and whisk to combine. Transfer the sauce to a 1-quart zip lock bag, remove the air, and seal.
- Cook for 45 minutes. If you wish to hold the sauce in the water bath for a longer period, reduce the temperature to 160°F (71°C). Before serving, transfer the sauce to a bowl and whisk vigorously. Stir in the fresh minced tarragon. The sauce may appear to be slightly separated, but whisking will smooth and emulsify the béarnaise.