Steak Béarnaise

Now that eating butter has been decriminalised, all the old favourites are coming back into fashion. Béarnaise is very nearly the best thing you can add to a superb grilled or braaied steak.

Steak Béarnaise
Photo: FJ Potgieter Styling: Jill Nowers
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To make Steak Béarnaise for four, you will need:

  • 1kg fillet or rump
  • 180g butter
  • 2 large spring onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 60ml white vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1,5 tablespoons fresh tarragon
  • 1 lemon

We begin with the meat. I am a convert to cast-iron skillet cooking – it’s a splendid way to grill beef. Season the steak with black pepper. Bring the skillet up to medium high on the hob for a few minutes, then cut the heat to medium.

Add a little canola oil and grill the steak to the doneness you like. Turn the meat every thirty seconds to create a light crust of caramelised blood sugar. Remove to a warmed plate, cover with aluminium foil or a large lid and let it rest for the same amount of time it needed to cook. This distributes the heat and juiciness throughout the steak.

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While this is going on, get to grips with the Béarnaise sauce. Finely mince the spring onions (bulbs only), or one small pickling onion. Remove the yolks from the two eggs, discarding the whites.

Allow or assist the butter to become soft before use. Quarter the lemon. Finely chop the fresh tarragon.

Select a small heavy-based saucepan. Add the onions, pepper, vinegar and one tablespoon of the tarragon and bring this up to medium heat. Begin with a rapid boil, then cut the heat to a simmer. Staying alert to the changing state of the contents, let them reduce for five minutes, then remove and return them to room temperature for later.

Now for a fussy bit of traditional chef craft. Select a second small saucepan, fill it with 50mm of water and bring this to the boil.

Whisk by hand the two egg yolks plus the tarragon, onions and vinegar mixture diluted with 15ml of water.

More magic plus a dash of anxiety. Reduce the boiling water saucepan to low and hold the whisked egg bowl in the steam. Keep whisking until the yolks thicken and increase in volume. Do this for six minutes, while a friend wipes your steaming brow.

But wait, there’s more! Add the soft (not molten) butter a spoonful at a time. Whisk, whisk, whisk. The outcome will be a smooth emulsion and your nerves will be shot, believe me. Do a taste check. Add a little salt if you’ve used unsalted butter. Squeeze fresh juice from the lemon quarter, add the rest of the fresh tarragon and spoon the warm Béarnaise sauce over the steak.

Pour yourself a large shot of something life-enhancing and enjoy the outcome of your Stakhanovite kitchen labour.

I salute you.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.

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