Bearnaise sauce is one of the greatest culinary exploits of humankind, if you ask me. Hot butter sauces are nearly unbeatable, and Bearnaise is king. Here I have put together a wildcrafted version of a Bearnaise, using yarrow as the aromatic herb. Yarrow grows all over the world, so no matter where you are, you ought to be able to whip up this sauce to spoon over meat, fish, or vegetables (or the whole dang plate). But this post will focus entirely on the culinary uses of yarrow. If you are interested in learning more about yarrow, click the link right here to go back to my previous post about compound butter. In that post, I have compiled information about the identification and historical uses of yarrow.
Yarrow has a distinct and delightful aroma. It can be used in the kitchen as an aromatic herb, but it also has a tendency toward bitterness when cooked. Yarrow is best used in raw and lightly cooked dishes, such as compound butters, hot butter sauces, and vinaigrettes.
The taste of yarrow is often compared to tarragon. While the aroma is similar, yarrow is certainly its own herb, and I think can only be truly understood as such. Which, frankly, makes it a whole lot more exciting to use than something that is simply “wild tarragon.”
Tarragon is the herb flavor in the famous Bearnaise sauce, a common steakhouse hot butter sauce made with shallots, sherry, and vinegar. This French sauce from the Bearn region is excellent on beef, salmon, and a variety of vegetables like broccoli or asparagus.
Below you will find a recipe that I have developed which uses a small amount of egg white, which is not typically used in hot butter sauces, to create a more stable sauce that is resistant to breaking. If you’ve ever made hollandaise or bearnaise before, you will know that they can be temperamental. The addition of one egg white creates a much more stable sauce, which can be stored in the refrigerator and even microwaved to reheat. So, if you’ve been intimidated by hot butter sauces in the past, now is the time to get over that and have the best steak of your life.
½ lb. butter
3 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
½ cup sherry
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp yarrow, finely minced
Melt the butter.
In another pan, boil vinegar, sherry, shallots, and peppercorns until the liquid is reduced to around ½ cup. Strain and discard the solids (or put them in a jar in the fridge with a bit more sherry and white wine vinegar and use like pickled onions).
Allow the vinegar to cool briefly and then whisk the beaten eggs into the liquid. Add the finely chopped yarrow. Put the mixture over a double boiler and continue to whisk.
When it just begins to thicken, begin slowly whisking in the butter over 4-5 additions. When a beautiful, thick consistency is reached, remove from heat.
Add additional salt and/or white wine vinegar if the taste isn’t quite right. I would suggest tasting, and if the taste is too buttery, add 1 tsp white wine vinegar. If you used salted butter, the salt should be fine.
Enjoy over a nice steak with asparagus (or steamed milkweed buds). One of the finest meals there is.
If your sauce breaks:
-It could be too much heat. If you think heat is the issue, add 1 tsp cold water while whisking to reconstitute the sauce.
-If it breaks after finishing, it could be that your ratio of fat to protein is off. Try adding some of the reserved egg whites a little at a time while whisking over the double boiler. This has brought some of my very lost sauces back from the dead.
Hope that works for you!