In America, turkey may be the national holiday dish, but once you’re through stuffing your gullet with Thanksgiving fowl, it’s a welcome respite to look to that other feast meat—beef—come December’s holidays. And, whether you plan to feed an army with a standing rib roast or broil individual steaks for a smaller gathering, the way to take read meat to the concierge level is with Béarnaise sauce.
It mightn’t be one of France’s five “mother sauces,” but this herb-laced take on Hollandaise is about the best favor you can do to a ribeye, or just about any, steak. Born in Paris (not the province of Béarn, as the name would suggest) in the 1830s, it’s a relative latecomer to the world of haute cuisine. It atones for being tardy with a distinctive character powered by a combination of shallots, chervil and tarragon, the king of herbs, reduced in white wine vinegar (in place of the usual lemon juice).
Many steakhouses will have this sauce on the menu. If you don’t see it, ask. (We’ve met the occasional server who finds its addition to a fatty ribeye overkill. We wholeheartedly disagree.) For all its glory Béarnaise sauce is not that difficult to create. It takes less than a half an hour, and the skills
involved are somewhat basic. The challenge, as with Hollandaise, is to keep the buttery, eggy base from
curdling, something you accomplish via a double boiler.
Serve it in a gravy boat for guests to ladle on as they please. That way sociopaths who eschew red meat can drown their asparagus in it. If you make enough you can even use it at breakfast on your Eggs Benedict.