This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.
This week: A stress-free way to make a classic — and unruly — French sauce that's often called the "child of hollandaise."
Frederik de Pue was born and raised in Belgium and trained in French cooking with some of Europe's finest chefs. When he moved to Washington, D.C., he worked as executive chef to the Ambassador for the European Commission Delegation.
These days, he owns and runs a catering business called 42° (42 degrees). (Full disclosure: He's been catering wedding anniversary dinners for Nina Totenberg and her husband David Reines for the last 14 years.)
As a personal chef and caterer, he says he has had to invent ways to prepare gourmet meals for a lot of people under difficult circumstances. He came up with his hack for an easier — and stable — béarnaise sauce when a bride at an outdoor wedding he catered insisted on the sauce.
"I was in a field and it was 102 degrees outside," says de Pue. "And I needed the béarnaise for 100 people, so I came up with this recipe to make it easier. I've been making it since, and people really think it's actually a real béarnaise."
The Hard Way
Béarnaise is one of the five "mother" sauces in French haute-cuisine, and it is a traditional sauce for steak. Normally, it involves combining clarified butter with egg yolks and the other ingredients. But it can be hard to keep them stable as the butter and eggs can easily separate.
Traditionally, the sauce is made using a piece of equipment called bain-marie used to heat things gently and gradually to a fixed temperature. And it has to be eaten right away because of the raw egg.
With de Pue's hack, you don't need special equipment. And the sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or longer.
This béarnaise involves mayonnaise, so de Pue says you don't need a bain-marie nor do you have to worry about the raw egg and melted butter separating. By using turmeric for coloring, it looks just like the real thing.
6 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 large shallot, chopped finely
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1 tablespoons whipped cream
Start off by placing the finely chopped shallot in a small saucepan and add the red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer for about 10 minutes. The shallots needs to become transparent and must have absorbed all the vinegar. Put aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.
In bowl, add mayonnaise, a pinch of salt, white pepper, turmeric and tarragon. Mix well and little by little add the shallot mix; this is where you decide if you like it more acidic or not. Add a little drops of warm water to give the sauce a smooth finish. Once seasoned, add the whipped heavy cream to the sauce and carefully fold the cream with wooden spoon.
Béarnaise is classically served with steak with French fries, or steak frite. Since it's tart, it can also accompany chicken or fish.