Bearnaise days

Once upon a time, I used to be good at making sauces from scratch.  You know the stuff… Hollandaise… Poivre vert… etc.  ( I worked as a cook to pay for grad school.)

Since my last two trips to the UK, I have become aware of Bearnaise again.  As a matter of fact, the last two times I had lunch with His Hermeneuticalness, Timothy Cont. Fingan, and Mulier Fortis they had, I believe on both occasions, steak with … yes… Bearnaise sauce!

I determined I would reconquer my saucier side.

So, last Sunday I made a little steak (NY strip) with some asparagus and bearnaise for myself.

Then this last Sunday, Laetare, I wound up in the Twin Cities at the home of a friend and had, low and behold, steak with bearnaise!

Here are the steaks in a "before" shot…

The wine had to breathe…

What was it?

The steak in an "after" shot.

Laetare indeed.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Guy Power says:

    Fr. Z,

    How much do you charge for delivery?

    Yum, yum, yum!

  2. Vincenzo says:

    That looks so delicious.

  3. Guy: Perhaps one of these days a parish could raffle off a supper cooked by Fr. Z. I would give a talk and make supper. They would have to fly me in and give me an ample budget however.

  4. TNCath says:

    Just had dinner but am now hungry again! Was that steak medium rare?

  5. Kiran says:

    Wow! That is one eaten steak.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    I love these installments of “Fr. Z’s Kitchen”! My mother does too. She always wants to see the pictures!

    How about a book? “What Does The Recipe Really Say?”

  7. Kiran: You oughta see what my mother can do to a T-bone or Porterhouse. Scary.

    By the time she is done with the bone, it looks like it has been bleached in the sun. I just cut all the meat off of mine and toss it her direction. It never hits the ground.

    She’s got it right, of course. The meat at the bone is the best. This is why I favor the T-bone, Porterhouse, or the wonderful bone-in Ribeye.

  8. Geoffrey: “What Does The Recipe Really Say?”


  9. david andrew says:

    Much like the postings here . . . rich, flavorful and (in the last pic) picked absolutely clean!!!

    (I must confess that my now favorite way of eating asparagus is roasted with a little olive oil, sea salt and f.g.p., then generously sprinkled with fresh Parmigiano reggiano).

  10. TNCath says:


  11. Father: Didn’t your Ma ever teach you that if you are going to have food you need to bring enough for all of your guests?

    Blog = Many (drooling) Guests

  12. david: That sounds good! Sometimes I simply steam it really quickly under pressure until it is just done and eat it plain.

    Speaking of parmigiano, try it in chunks with a cold white like Orvieto together with raw broad beans. Spring is coming. Semo romani!

  13. Cathy: And when you are all my guests, I will have food for you too!


  14. Would you be so kind as to post the recipe for the Bearnaise? UMMM!

  15. Tinytin says:

    It’s nice to know that there are still Traditional Sauces in this modern culinary world, with all its vinegarettes and coulis.

  16. Fr. Finelli: Nice to see you here.

    There are some variations, but the working theory uses acid and tarragon built on egg yoke. So, I use tarragon infused white vinegar (which I made myself).

    To make just enough for two…

    Start by separating two egg yolks, discard the white and save the yokes in a small bowl. Keep a little milk or cream or half and half on hand just in case (emergency fix).

    Start a broad pan with about a couple inches of water and warm to about a simmer… not boil, but just under rippling.

    Start your sauce in a small saucepan. Warm about 1/4 cup of tarragon infused vinegar (or some vinegar) and about 1/4 cup of white wine or, if you are feeling frisky, dry vermouth. Add a couple tablespoons of very finely chopped shallot. I guess you could sub some very mild scallion or maybe… maybe… onion. Add fresh tarragon if you have some, let’s say a teaspoon or so of chopped tarragon. Turn up the heat now and reduce this mixture in the sauce pan to about two tablespoons of mixture.

    When this is reduced, let it cool for a moment. You will have to beat in the egg yokes and if it is too hot, the yokes will solidify. You don’t want that!

    Take your saucepan with your reduced sauce starter and shift it into the warm water (double boiler… this is how you make stuff like zabbaione). Start to beat the egg yokes into the mixture. I use a wire whisk. You don’t want that water too hot! When the sauce starts to thicken… work fast! Start beating in butter in small bits, little by little until you think its right. Let’s say about 1/4 lbs of butter. This will vary. Eventually, this will become satin-like and as you whisk it, it will be very smooth in glossy ribbons. At this point you can add a tiny bit of lemon juice just to brighten it up a little. I like to garnish with fresh tarragon or some other herb appropriate to the spectrum you put on the plate. Personality. And some garnishes also prepares the nose.

    If your yokes start to cook you can pull the pan from the water and rescue them with a little cream and a vigorous whisking arm,

    I don’t usually work from written recipes, so these are estimates. I just do it at high speed and it usually works. With these egg yoke sauces you need a little practice, but you can get super fast at them.

  17. Antiquarian says:

    Father Z– have you ever done the variation called Sauce Maltaise, in which blood-orange juice is used instead of the infused vinegar, and grated zest of blood orange is whisked in at the end? (In all other ways your recipe would stay the same.) It’s glorious with fish, and while 10 years ago blood oranges were hard to find in the US, they are now findable here in DC. Try it, if you can find them!

  18. Thomas: That is my signature icon.

  19. Antiquarian: I actually have 3 nice blood oranges right now! I will try that. Thanks for that suggestion! Depending on the fish I would perhaps not use so much tarragon. I think you could play with this.

  20. Antiquarian says:

    Yes, I think the tarragon is itself often omitted completely, and pepper– black or cayenne– used instead. But I agree, one could play around with it! Besides fish, in France Sauce Maltaise is also often served on asparagus– very nice.

  21. Jennifer says:

    wow, wow, wow, wow….and you like it rare….absolute perfection! I see your good taste goes beyond good liturgy.

  22. Melody says:

    *sniffle* That looks so good! Thanks for posting the recipe, I will make it one of these days. The things I cook for myself get a bit boring at times…

  23. wayne says:

    Great stuff Father, must check out that wine.

  24. Jim says:

    Asparagus without the tips…..
    Bloomin Colonials

    Thanks for a good feast on ALL of the days Father.


  25. gjoe says:

    Oh dear.

    Darned carne-vale.

    Is it Easter yet?

    I know that man cannot live on T-Bones alone, but it’d be nice to try for a while.

  26. Jim: I assure you, the asparagus tips were very much there when I plated that up … for a short time, at least.

  27. Different says:


    You were actually a line cook???

    That’s awesome. Cooking at that level is extremely difficult. I now respect you even more!

    Have you ever thought about writing a Catholic-themed cookbook? Perhaps a “liturgical” cookbook…Special recipes for feasts and different liturgical seasons…all filled with humorous anecdotes and interesting stories.

    I’d buy one.

  28. Greg Hessel in Arlington Diocese says:


    You didn’t know he is coming out with two cookbooks? One for the ordinary form of cooking and one for the extraordinary form.

  29. Greg: two cookbooks

    LOL! Thanks for that chuckle.

  30. joe says:

    Reminds me of Ye Olde Days when I did a stint at the grill station of what passes (passed?) for the nicest restaurant in a small, southern college town.

    Incidentally, if you ever feel your arteries can take it, avail yourself of a Kobe (a.k.a. “Wagyu”) beef bone-in ribeye. It’s somewhat pricey (although a place called has them for a LOT less than bigger name purveyors) but it’s incomparable in flavor and texture.



    P.S. I’d buy the cookbook(s).

  31. joe: We have fantastic local Black Angus around here.

  32. Dave says:

    1985- a well-aged vintage. I’ll bet that was smooth as silk.


  33. Melody says:

    Haha… I was born in 1984!

  34. Mac McLernon says:

    I’m glad you seem to have good memories of our lunches in Blighty… That Bearnaise sauce does look good. I can happily pass when it comes to the greenery though!

  35. Vincenzo says:

    Geoffrey wrote:

    “How about a book? ‘What Does The Recipe Really Say?'”

    LOL! (click here)

  36. Guy Noir (Kogut) says:

    WOW, you Latin Rite guys have it so rough these days!

    Imagine, at one time the Western Church once fasted and abstained from meat (and dairy as well) for the entire Lenten Season just like those of us of the Eastern Rites.

  37. Geoffrey says:

    Vincenzo: Ha ha! That book had better say “Published by Domina Nostra Publishing inside”! ;-)

  38. On behalf of those of us who gave up meat for Lent, thanks a lot, Father!

    But it did look delicious. Makes me anticipate Easter all the more eagerly.

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