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Asparagus with Bearnaise Sauce

ingredients

2 fl oz (60 ml) white wine vinegar
2 fl oz (60 ml) dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 medium-sized shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp dried tarragon
3 egg yolks 6 oz (180 g) butter
2 tbsp fresh French tarragon or parsley, finely chopped
3 1/2 fl oz (100 ml) double cream
salt and black peppercorns

method

1. Clean and prepare the asparagus and place in the steamer, sprinkle with a small pinch of salt and steam for 10-12 minutes or until tender.

2. Make the sauce. Heat the vinegar, vermouth or wine, shallot, dried tarragon, a generous pinch of salt and 4 black peppercorns in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, over a moderate heat until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tbsp. Pour through a very fine sieve and set aside.

3. Set all the remaining ingredients of the bearnaise sauce ready to use before you start cooking the asparagus: have 1 oz (30 g) of the butter well chilled and cut into pieces about the size of a hazelnut.
4. Once the asparagus is steaming, melt the rest of the butter very gently.

5. Beat the egg yolks until creamy in a small, heatproof bowl or in the top of a double boiler; gradually beat in the reduced vinegar mixture, adding a very little at a time; beat in half the pieces of chilled butter.

6. Set over gently simmering water and continue beating until the mixture starts to thicken; immediately remove the double boiler from the heat and beat in the remaining chilled butter, beating in each piece before adding the next.

7. Keep beating as you add the melted butter, starting with a few drops at a time and gradually increasing this to a very thin continuous trickle as the sauce thickens. The consistency of the finished sauce should be a little thinner than classic mayonnaise.

8. Stir in the chopped fresh tarragon or parsley and add a little more salt and some finely ground white pepper if needed.

9. Beat the cream until stiff and fold into the sauce. Place the asparagus on heated plates and serve with the sauce.

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