When ever I used to think of French Food I had always thought of a sauce. It’s true, French food is about the sauce. I seem to recall one of the best beef dishes I have ever had, it was a filet mignon with a classic French Béarnaise Sauce. That was also when I fell in love with tarragon. Now, when I think of French food, I still think of the sauces AND so much more. I know that mastering the classic French sauces will be a good way to advance my skill and knowledge in the kitchen. So, on this day I have decided that I would try my hand at a few of these classic sauces from the text book lessons.
I go to the index at the back of the book to look up Béarnaise and see what my options are. To my absolute amazement, I see they have a recipe paired with eggs. How did I get so lucky? I am so excited! Not only am I excited to be making this sauce as that memory and the taste has never gone away, but I also get to put it on one of my favorite ingredients, Eggs! Shut the front door! The recipe I will be making takes me all the way to lesson 83, which is in the section of advanced recipes. Again, I convince myself it looks easy enough. 🙂 Yes, I smile…..now.
Here we go; “Baked Eggs With Béarnaise Sauce”
The first step is to halve some tomatoes. I have organic beefsteak. These will do nicely. They will serve as the base for the egg. I am instructed to scrape out the seeds and season the cut side with salt. The seasoned tomatoes are placed cut side down on a rack to drain some of the natural water/juice from them. After draining for a short time, they are seasoned with pepper and placed cut side down on a baking sheet, then drizzled with oil, and baked at 400 degrees until tender. OK. not bad. So far so good. While those are draining and cooking, I start prepping for the sauce.
The sauce has ten ingredients. I think to myself that’s kind of a lot for a sauce. Oh shoot, I need to clarify the butter. Why didn’t I see that before? I better get crackin. Clarifying butter is easy enough, especially the way they instruct it in the book. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over very low heat, without stirring. Skim the foam from the surface. Then remove the pan from the heat and let it stand until the solids separate and settle to the bottom, then simply remove the clear yellow liquid and leave the solids at the bottom of the pan. I made extra to keep on hand. I am pretty sure that I will using it in future recipes. So, the butter is done, the peppercorns crushed, shallot finely chopped, tarragon and chervil chopped, and liquids measured.
For the Béarnaise sauce;
In a small sauce pan I combine the crushed peppercorns, the shallot, tarragon, the vinegar and the wine. I bring that up to a boil and then allow it to simmer and reduce until all the liquid is gone. The pan is removed from the heat, and once cooled, the egg yolk and water is added to the pan. It is cooked over low heat while whisking constantly until it is thick enough to leave a trail with the whisk. It is important that the mixture does not boil, or it will cook the yolk and make it grainy. Once it is thick, the pan is removed from the heat and the clarified butter is added drop by drop until it is emulsified. Once the sauce is emulsified it is ready to accept the remainder of the clarified butter, so I add the rest of the clarified butter at a slow and steady stream while continuing to whisk, until it is thick and creamy. The sauce is seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Then the sauce is placed over a pan of warm water until I am ready for it. Now to bake the eggs.
My oven is still at 400 degrees from the tomatoes. The recipe says to brush some ramekin molds with melted butter (I have plenty of clarified now) and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. The ramekins are placed in a roasting pan and one egg is broke into each mold. The pan is then filled with hot water to half way up the sides of the molds. Place the roasting pan filled with the water and ramekins on the stove top and bring the water to a good simmer, then the pan is transferred to the oven to finish cooking. The eggs are baked in the water bath for about 3 minutes until the whites are no longer runny. Then the ramekins are removed from the pan and set aside.
Now to assemble. On the serving plate, arrange the tomatoes cut side up. The eggs are unmolded and placed on top of the tomato. The easiest way to do this is to run a knife around the inside of the mold, loosening the egg. Then place a small plate on top, invert the mold and then carefully transfer the unmolded egg onto the tomato. The Béarnaise is spooned over the egg and then it is garnished with chervil.
OK, so, this little egg dish took me quite a while to make, but I am sure I can reduce that time the next time I make it, and the next time it will be over some filets. Viva Le Béarnaise!
Now, as I sit and savor my baked eggs with Béarnaise, I cannot help but feel very accomplished as well as satisfied. The classic pairing of tomato with the egg and of course the tangy, rich, and herbaceous sauce, enveloping the whole thing. It is truly a masterpiece. Well worth the work. Another great lesson! On to the next!
Since there is still some time to this day, I decide to be a glutton for punishment and go on to another classic sauce. This one is a sweet sauce. Crème Anglaise.
I will be following the recipe for the sauce but the rest of the dish is from my head. I decided to make a sweet, dessert crepe, with a classic crème anglaise, and fresh blueberries.
I have obviously heard the name of this sauce, creme anglaise, many times before, but I am not sure if I have ever had it, at least not in it’s sauce form. I know it is used in sweet preparations, and can be used in many recipes, so I am intrigued and mutually excited to be making this sauce.
I once again go to my text book and find the classic recipe in lesson five.
I am amazed. Four ingredients. OK! My kind of recipe! Of course this has no reflection on how long it takes. We have learned that from the start. So, I try not to get too excited. I read on…..Creme Anglaise – (English Cream) called “custard sauce” in England, has been thoroughly French since the 19th century. The French wanted to rename it. One chef suggested “Crème A Glacier” which translates to Cream for Freezing, as it is the basic cream used for making ice cream, but they instead kept the original name. The main difference between the English version and the French version is the use of the egg. A French crème anglaise uses only egg yolks, not whole eggs as in some English versions. It can be flavored in an endless variety of flavorings, and is served cold or at room temperature. It can be spooned over or around any cake type dessert or simply paired with fruit. When frozen, it becomes ice cream, and when gelatin is added it becomes the base for bavarian creams. This sauce is so very versatile. With this recipe in my arsenal I will always be able to come up with a fantastic dessert, even if dessert is not my forte. Which it isn’t. So, here we go…..
I start by putting 2 cups of milk in a sauce pan. I use organic, whole, grass milk. (pasture fed cows) then I add 1 tsp. of pure, organic, vanilla extract. I bring that to a boil and remove from heat. Then I combine 4 organic egg yolks and 1/3 C of organic sugar in a heat proof bowl. I whisk those together in the bowl until thick and pale yellow. You will know when it is thick enough by the “ribbons” that form when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.
Once the mixture has reached the proper consistency then I very gradually whisk in half of the milk mixture (I am tempering it, by bringing it up to temperature slowly, as to not curdle or cook the eggs) Once I have successfully whisked in the first half of the hot milk, I add the remainder of the milk and whisk them together, then the mixture is returned to the sauce pan where it will cook over a low heat, while stirring consistently with a wooden spoon, until thick.
Just like the béarnaise sauce, it is important to cook the sauce over low heat so it does get grainy in texture.
Cook the sauce over low heat while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leave a clear trail when you run your finger through it. Once thickened, it is strained into a bowl and cooled. Stir the sauce occasionally until ready to use as it may form a “skin” while cooling.
OK. This sauce is so good you will want to bathe in it. It is literally liquid ice cream. I have always been one to allow my ice cream to sit until it gets really soft and soupy, so this is right up my alley. Now on to the crepes.
I make the classic crepe recipe for a sweet preparation. Flour, eggs, milk, butter, and a touch of sugar. I cook those exactly as I had cooked the savory crepes in my previous post.
Now to plate. It couldn’t be simpler. I fold the crepe in quarters as if I’m making a Crepe Suzette. I pour some of the crème anglaise onto my rimmed plate. I then add the folded crepes, and top with fresh organic berries. I decorate it simply with some organic powdered sugar.
Wow! I amazed myself! It’s creative, it’s delicious, and it’s beautiful! It looks professional. I am in heaven mastering these two recipes. I really hope you give them a try. You won’t be sorry.