Dad’s Steak Bearnaise
Steak Bearnaise is without a doubt one of the best dishes out there. What on earth is more luxurious than a fine piece of grilled beef drizzled with a hot butter sauce? Flavored with tarragon, shallots, and white wine vinegar, bearnaise sauce somehow adds both creamy decadence and a pleasant acidity to cut through the fat of the beef and butter.
I’ve included it in the family recipes section of this book/website, because for me it is closely associated with my father. At his 60th birthday, some years back, I remember that we went out to a steakhouse and all ordered exactly as he did: filet bearnaise. That must have been my first taste of steak bearnaise, and I still don’t know if there is anything I’d rather eat.
That particular event, my first taste of steak bearnaise, was spectacular. But the practice, of my father leading us boys to good food was one that happened often all through our lives. He taught us all from a young age to appreciate a good meal and to always taste new dishes, even if we thought we wouldn’t like them. As a result, all four of us boys grew up comfortable and happy in the kitchen, and I was sent down this long, winding path of culinary exploration.
In all the time I have spent cooking and experimenting, one of my favorite discoveries is what I call the unbreakable hot butter sauce. For those of you that don’t know, these are notoriously finicky sauces, requiring great care to keep them from breaking and becoming a chunky mess. It is a fine balance of fats and proteins which are emulsified into that perfectly creamy hollandaise that we all so enjoy over poached eggs.
For whatever reason, when making hot butter sauces, only butter and egg yolks are typically used. This makes the fat to protein ratio really tight, and makes the whole process very touchy. What I have found is that if you add one egg white to the mix, the protein ratio is increased, and the resulting sauce is much more stable. You can even toss it in the microwave to reheat it.
I’ve done my best to scour the internet to see if anyone else uses the same technique, and I haven’t found anything, which makes me feel like I’m either an idiot or a genius. So I’m going to go ahead and say it’s the latter.
½ lb. salted butter
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup sherry
2 large shallots
4 tbsp tarragon
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
Melt the butter
In another pan, boil vinegar, sherry, shallots, peppercorns, and 3 tbsp tarragon until the liquid is reduced to around ½ cup. Strain and discard the solids.
Allow to cool briefly and then whisk the beaten eggs into the liquid. Put the mixture over a double boiler and continue to whisk.
When it just begins to thicken, begin slowly whisking in the butter over 4-5 additions. When a beautiful, thick consistency is reached, remove from heat.
Finish with the remaining 1 tbsp tarragon (finely chopped). You can also add additional salt and/or white wine vinegar if the taste isn’t quite right. I would suggest tasting, and if the taste is too buttery, add 1 tsp white wine vinegar. If you used salted butter, the salt should be fine.
Enjoy over a nice steak with asparagus. One of the finest meals there is.
If your sauce does break:
-It could be too much heat. If you think heat is the issue, add 1 tsp cold water while whisking to reconstitute the sauce.
-If it breaks after finishing, it could be that your ratio of fat to protein is off. Try adding some of the reserved egg whites a little at a time while whisking over the double boiler. This has brought some of my very lost sauces back from the dead.
Hope that works for you!