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Bearnaise Revisited

March 12, 1997|JOAN DRAKE

I'd forgotten just how delicious a little Bearnaise sauce tastes on a grilled steak. Justified concern about fat, cholesterol and calories will keep me from serving this classic combination frequently, but not entirely.

A variation of Hollandaise sauce, Bearnaise is flavored with vinegar, shallots and herbs, rather than with lemon juice. Like Hollandaise, it's thickened with eggs.

The vinegar mixture can be made in advance, but it's best to finish the sauce just before serving.

Too much heat curdles all egg-thickened sauces, so they should be cooked over water that is simmering, not boiling. It's a good idea to have some cold water handy so a tablespoon can be added to cool the water if it starts to boil.

Should the sauce curdle, it usually can be salvaged by adding 2 tablespoons of boiling water and beating vigorously until smooth. Or set the pan in an ice bath, beat hard until smooth, then warm very gently over simmering water, stirring constantly.

Add a few freshly chopped herbs to the finished sauce if desired.

BEARNAISE SAUCE

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup tarragon vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon minced shallots

Salt

White pepper

3 egg yolks

3/4 cup melted butter

Combine wine, vinegar, tarragon, chervil, shallots, 1/8 teaspoon salt and dash white pepper in small saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 8 minutes.

Strain mixture, pressing herbs to extract liquid. Discard herbs and set liquid aside to cool to room temperature.

Place reduced mixture in top of double boiler over simmering water. Whisk in egg yolks. Add butter, small amount at a time, whisking well after each addition. When all butter has been added, cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until sauce thickens.

Remove top of double boiler and set on kitchen towel. Season sauce to taste with salt and white pepper before serving.

1 1/2 cups. Each 1 tablespoon serving:

61 calories; 72 mg sodium; 50 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.01 gram fiber.

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SHORTCUT

Food processor variation: Place cooled wine vinegar mixture in processor work bowl fitted with metal blade. Add egg yolks. Cover and process 3 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl.

With motor running, pour butter through feed tube in slow, steady stream, about 30 seconds. Sauce should be finished by time all butter is added.

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