Monday, August 13, 2012

Sauce Béarnaise w/ Filet & Asaparagus - MY FAVORITE MEAL {#CookforJulia}

 If you know me, you might be surprised to know that if I had to make the choice of "my last meal", it wouldn't be Mexican food or something gloriously garlicky.  It wouldn't be a bowl of Tortilla Soup or a loaf of freshly baked bread with a wedge of cheese.  Although those would all fall into my "second choices" category.  I would actually choose a Filet Mignon (cooked anywhere from rare to medium) smothered in Béarnaise Sauce.  Preferably with a side of hand-cut fries also smothered in Béarnaise.  Okay, the pictures have asparagus in them...and not fries.  What can I say?  I was feeling virtuous.  But truly, that would be my last meal request.  With a bottle of wine to wash it down.

Perhaps it's due to the fact that I don't eat that meal very often.  Okay, hardly ever.  The other things that I'm known for loving are things that I eat on a regular basis.  So the "special" factor probably plays in.  Yes, that has to be it.
But..."WHY?  What's the reasoning behind your choice?" ...you ask?

Mainly because it's so freakin' delicious.

The reason I would choose that meal isn't because of one particularly fond memory.  Though, I do remember it fondly.  It's just because it's so darn good.  The first time I made Béarnaise (and Hollandaise and it's other derivatives) was during my apprenticeship.  I was stationed on grill for a period of nine months (give or take).  And I had to make a couple batches a night to go with one of the steaks.  The first batch was always fun.  I looked forward to watching those yolks "take in" all of that softened butter.  It's amazing how much butter yolks can hold.  I'm sure I broke it a few times in the beginning, but once I got the hang of it, it was old hat.  The time it got hard was when that particular steak sold really well during service and I had to make another batch while still putting up orders.  But can I just tell you what a great work-out a whisk can be!
At the end of the nights when I was working with a buddy on sauté who was just as much a lover of the sauce as I, I'd put a little portion of Béarnaise in a 1/16th pan and set it between us while we started to break down.  Or earlier if it was particularly slow.  There was almost always little end bits of Prime Rib hanging around.  We made sure of it.  So into the Béarnaise they'd go.  And fries?  Oh yeah, those were always around, no doubt.  So those would get swiped through the sauce, as well.  Little did I realize just how fortunate I was back then.  Béarnaise wouldn't always be around for dipping at my leisure (okay, it would if I made it...but...).  And mostly, I wouldn't always be as active (and young) as I was then.  I mean, if I shoveled it in now like I did then, I'd be bedridden.

But basically, when I switched stations from grill to whatever came next, Béarnaise became a thing of the past.  Sure, I'd make it now and again, but never as frequently as I did during those 9 months.  But when I want a real treat, I will make a Filet and whip up a batch.  And each and every bite is like heaven.
In this, my next to last #CookforJulia post, I decided it was high-time to indulge.  I still make Hollandaise a little more often than I do Béarnaise (for Eggs Benedict), and when I discovered Julia's method for making it the blender, I was hooked.  Sure, now's the time I could probably use that whisk-work-out most, but the ease of making it in the blender completely and totally eliminates the need to break a sweat.  I decided to make the Béarnaise this way as well...and I'm scared to admit that sheer willpower will now be the only thing keeping me from making it more often.  I want it to stay "special", ya know?  Julia doesn't call for straining the reduction, but I like to do so to remove the shallots and peppercorns.  Plus, I like to finish mine with a smattering of fresh tarragon and chervil folded into the sauce (yes, that's the way I learned).  But Julia's blender-method will most likely be my method of choice 'til the end of time.

Watch for my final #CookforJulia post on Wednesday the 15th...this will mark what would have been Julia's 100th birthday.  I'm so happy that I took the time to cook from all of my Julia books over these last nine or ten days.  She truly was a remarkable woman...a remarkable force.

Sauce Béarnaise

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Keywords: condiment entree side butter herbs eggs French

Ingredients (~1 cup)
    for the reduction:
    • ¼ c. Tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
    • ¼ c. dry white wine (or vermouth)
    • 1 heaping Tbs. minced shallots
    • ½ tsp. dried tarragon
    • pinch salt
    • 6 black peppercorns, crushed with side of your knife
    to finish the sauce:
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 4-6 oz. (1-1½ sticks) unsalted butter
    • salt
    • palmful chopped fresh tarragon and chervil
    Instructions
    make the reduction:
    Combine all of the ingredients for the reduction in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Watch it carefully once it starts to boil - the liquid can evaporate quickly.
    Strain into the jar of a blender.

    make the Béarnaise:
    Put the butter in a small pan and heat until melted and bubbling.

    Add the egg yolks to the blender with the reduction, then cover and blend at high speed for 30 seconds.

    Remove the lid of the blender (or the center piece in the lid) and start pouring in the hot butter in "droptlets" while the blender is still on high speed. Continue pouring slowly, giving the yolks time to absorb the butter. Once the sauce starts to thicken, you can start to pour a little quicker. You should now have a thick, rich sauce.

    Throw in the freshly chopped tarragon and chervil. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary.
    Enjoy over steak, french fries, veggies, broiled fish or chicken, or egg dishes. Try not to drink it from a spoon (much easier said than done).

    notes:
    If your reduction gets away from you and goes dry, simply add some more of the vinegar and wine (in equal parts) and let it reduce again (assuming it hasn't burnt - if so, start over).

    This is my absolute favorite sauce in the world - especially when served over Filet Mignon. Or used to dip french fries in. Although I'd been making it for years by hand, once I discovered Julia Child's method for making it (and Hollandaise) in the blender, I never looked back. It's super simple and works every time.

    inspired by and adapted from The French Chef Cookbook
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