A Bearnaise sauce is a variation of the classic Hollandaise. It differentiates itself through the addition of peppercorns, shallots and tarragon. It should be quite sharp due to the vinegar and also smooth and silky. I think it is the sharpness that makes it work so well with the steak - it really cuts through the fattiness of the meat and clears the palette before taking the next mouthful. Most sauces with steaks tend to be rich and creamy and I think it is this richness that I haven't liked in the past. The Bearnaise is a really pleasant alternative.
The steak itself needs some mention. No matter how good the sauce is, if you don't buy a good quality piece of meat then you are fighting a losing battle. Get yourself to the butchers and pick out a lovely marbled piece of rump or sirloin. We are going to write a post soon about the virtues of finding a good regular butcher to go to, instead of just going to the supermarket.
Before going on to say how we made our Bearnaise sauce, just a quick note about cooking your steak. It always used to be the way that you would put the steak in the pan, cook for a few minutes and then turn over for a few more minutes before taking out of the pan. I have heard a few different times now that you should instead put the steak in a smoking hot pan and then continue to turn the steak every 10-15 seconds or so until cooked to your liking. It is hard to tell a really big difference, but our steak did come out very well!
For the Bearnaise sauce, enough for 2 people -
1 shallot - finely diced
2 egg yolks
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp water
20g tarragon - leaves removed and the stalks reserved
100g butter - cut into small cubes
salt and pepper
1. Gently fry the shallot and the thick tarragon stalks for 1 minute in a small saucepan. Add the vinegar and water and allow to simmer gently until the liquid has reduced to about 1 teaspoonful.
2. Strain this liquid into a heatproof bowl. Put the saucepan back on the heat and fill with an inch of boiling water.
3. Put the bowl over the water and add the two egg yolks. Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken. Then add the butter a cube at a time until fully incorporated.
4. You must make sure you keep whisking for the whole process and also dont let the water boil too vigorously as the sauce will curdle if it becomes too hot.
5. When you have reached the desired consistency, add the chopped tarragon leaves and season with salt and pepper.