Béarnaise sauce is a classic French accompaniment to grilled meat or fish. It’s a creamy, delicate concoction that is made from egg yolks, reduced vinegar and shallots that are whisked over low heat and emulsified with butter and then flavored with tarragon and chervil.
Like a Hollandaise sauce, Béarnaise is temperamental; if it curdles on you, beat in a trickled spoonful of hot water (to a cold sauce) or cold water (if the sauce is hot) and it should come back together.
French restaurateur Fernand Point (1897-1955) famously wrote in Ma Gastronomie: “A Béarnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect.”
If you’re wondering how the sauce got its name, the chef Collinet (the inventor of the puffed potato) is believed to have been the first to put the sauce on the menu at the 1836 opening of “Le Pavillon Henri IV”, a restaurant outside of Paris that was named after the notably gourmet king. Béarn is the birthplace of Henri IV.