Luscious and savory Béarnaise is a coveted staple of French cuisine. This versatile sauce can easily elevate any dish with its rich texture and tangy flavor profile.
Béarnaise sauce was invented in the 1830s by Chef Jean-Louis Françoise-Collinet. The recipe is a variation of Hollandaise, one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine. It was first served at the opening of the Le Pavillon Henri IV restaurant in 1836 and is named after the province of Béarn, the birthplace of Henry IV of France.
Béarnaise is rich and velvety with a delicate balance of bright, piquant, and herbaceous flavors. It’s a classic combination of traditional French flavor profiles, from the delicate anise flavors of the herbs to the balance of creaminess and acidity in the sauce. There is also a noticeable pepperiness to Béarnaise that distinguishes it from Hollandaise.
Ingredients and Preparation
Béarnaise is a reduction of wine vinegar flavored with a combination of tarragon, shallots, peppercorn, and chervil then thickened with egg yolks and butter.
It’s believed to be a child of Hollandaise sauce because of the similarity in cooking techniques. The main difference between the two is that Hollandaise is made with a markedly simpler combination of ingredients, mainly: butter, egg yolks, and lemon.
One of the most popular uses of Béarnaise is as a sauce for steak. The creaminess and hint of acidity in the sauce complement the deep flavors of a perfectly seared or grilled steak.
Béarnaise also lends itself wonderfully to seafood and poultry. The richness of the butter and egg yolk in the sauce echoes the natural fattiness of the proteins while the brightness from the wine vinegar keeps the dish from tasting too heavy.
Beyond meat, Béarnaise pairs well with hardy vegetables such as asparagus or potatoes and also serves as a wonderful alternative to Hollandaise sauce for eggs Benedict.
When experimenting with using Béarnaise for the first time, note that the sauce pairs naturally well with fresh ingredients prepared in simple ways. This allows the complex taste of the Béarnaise to shine while adding depth to the existing flavors of its accompanying dish.