Sous Vide Hollandaise and Bearnaise Sauces — What Magic is This?!?!?!
“With enough butter, anything is good!”
– Julia Child
What if we told you that you can make these luxurious and elegant sauces in minutes with
minimal cook time, no stirring, and a quick whip with an immersion blender – Voila! Gorgeous,
silken sous vide Hollandaise or Bearnaise sauce ready to grace any dish.
Whether you’re hosting a Sunday Brunch or creating a delectable dinner for someone special, these sauces turn up the
volume and are so indulgent they’re sinful. If you’re like most cooks, everything you’ve ever heard about these tricky, elusive French sauces has scared you away from trying to master them…until now.
With sous vide, it really is as simple as that.
No double-boiler pans, no worrisome stirring, no babysitting to ensure that the sauce doesn’t “break”, no fretting about
“Plan B” should your masterpiece be inedible.
Let’s start with Hollandaise sauce, a pillar of classic French cooking and one of the famous (in culinary circles) Five Mother Sauces, along with Bechemel, Veloute, Espagnole, and Tomate.
Hollandaise elevates everything it’s served with whether it’s being presented as a sumptuous blanket over Eggs Benedict for Sunday Brunch or as a dip for roasted or grilled vegetables like artichokes or asparagus.
In the traditional preparation, the eggs and butter need to be tempered in such a way that the hot butter doesn’t solidify the egg yolks during the cooking process.
This includes carefully stirring in the butter, a teaspoonful at a time, and whisking as you go being cautious not to add it too fast and causing the sauce to “break” or separate.
Using a sous vide water bath, the egg yolks, butter, and remaining ingredients are all heated together removing this concern entirely.
Sous Vide Hollandaise Sauce
5 large egg yolks, very lightly beaten
1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into ½ inch slices
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon flake salt
While bringing your ingredients to room temperature, start the sous vide water bath preheating
to a temperature of 162 degrees. You will need a deep container that, once filled, the water
reaches to a mid-point on the circulator between the Min and Max lines, usually about five to
seven quarts. Stock pots and Dutch ovens work perfectly, as do plastic sous vide containers
that can be found online and in specialty kitchen and restaurant shops.
As your water bath is coming to temperature, it’s time to put the ingredients into a sealing bag
or a 1-quart zip-top freezer cooking bag. Please make sure that you are using freezer bags that
are BPA-free for food safety reasons. Freezer bags are also thicker and less likely to break or
leak during the cooking process.
When submerging the freezer bag, it’s important to remove the extra air to ensure the best
heat conduction so that your sauce cooks evenly and you get the best result. The favored way
of accomplishing this is to submerge the bag into the water letting the air escape as the sauce
is slowly lowered. Again, let as much air out of the bag as you can and then complete the seal
and attach it to the side of the container.
With most sous vide cooking, once the temperature is set and the water is preheated, you have
a wide window of time from start to the initiation of the finishing process. In contrast, these
sauces need to be timed a bit more precisely to ensure the perfect finished product. Too much
time and you can overcook the eggs which will give you a lumpy, thick sauce.
For the best results, the sauce should be cooked for 18 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes.
Once finished, carefully remove the bag from the sous vide water bath, being cautious not to
burn yourself, and pour into a mixing bowl.
Don’t be alarmed if the ingredients are separated when you pull the bag from the water; this is where the magic happens.
Using an immersion blender, blend the ingredients together very quickly on high speed and serve immediately.
You can also use a blender or food processor if preferred.
Once this liquid gold has come together, it is best to use right away. Your storage options are
somewhat limited. You can place the bowl in warm water for a short period of time, but do not
put back in the sous vide water bath – it will be too hot, and your masterpiece will continue to
cook. Having done this once, we can speak from experience. Instead of a gorgeous, creamy
sauce, we ended up with a runny omelet swimming in butter – Ugh! NO amount of blending
could have saved that sauce!
Now that you’ve perfected the ideal Hollandaise sauce, let’s take it up a notch with an elegant
Sous Vide Bearnaise Sauce
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large shallot, sliced very thin
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened and cut into ½ inch slices
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves, divided
½ teaspoon flake salt
In a small pan, add together the white wine vinegar, shallot and half of the tarragon. Bring to a
boil and reduce by half (about 1-2 minutes). Allow this concoction to cool while setting and
preheating the water for the sous vide bath to 162 degrees.
Once cool, pass the reduced liquid through a fine-mesh strainer squeezing any remaining fluid
from the shallots and tarragon and discard the solids. Add to a zip-lock freezer bag with the
remaining ingredients and seal the bag removing any air pockets.
The cooking, final preparation instructions, and storage options are the same as for the
Hollandaise sauce and will make the most perfect Steak Oscar in recent memory! All you need
is a little lightly steamed asparagus and some shredded crab meat placed on a beautifully sousvided
and seared steak with this fantastic Bearnaise sauce smothered on top!
Some Ideas for Serving….
Grilled or Steamed Artichokes
Poached Salmon with Dill
Eggs Benedict (and the many variations)
Cold Shrimp Cocktail
Steak Oscar (Crab and Asparagus on Steak with Hollandaise or Bearnaise Sauce)
Finally, the plating – this component adds to finishing touch of garnish to the top of the sauce.
Try a light sprinkle of paprika, some thinly diced chives or scallions, or fronds of dill. The
possibilities are endless. It’s time to invite your favorite people over and WOW them with your
gourmet skills. Cheers!