I wanted something fast and nice last night. I was tired, having spent the previous night at JFK. Linda had an exam the following morning and was anxious. So, I grabbed a hanger steak and some asparagus, threw them on the grill, and made some béarnaise.
Béarnaise is just a Hollandaise seasoned with some shallots and fresh tarragon. It’s great with steak, and Hollandaise is great with asparagus. And it’s surprisingly easy. It came together fast. The steak was charring nicely. I grabbed a bottle of wine, and opened it, and checked the steak.
And — eek! — my lovely sauce was an ugly curdled mess. I don’t mean, “It had some lumps.” I mean that, while my back was turned, it had become a pool of melted butter floating atop lots of gray granules of coagulated egg. It was incredibly ugly, and whisking accomplished nothing.
I thought this was probably beyond repair, but Ruhlman says, “start with another egg yolk and a little lemon and water, and beat the broken sauce into it.” I figured, maybe I’d just pour off the butter. That worked fine. But what about the seasoning? I put a little of the ugly curds into my nice new sauce; it looked OK. I put a little more. It still looked OK. This was quite a racket!
So I added the whole shebang, and whisked a little, and it was fine. You really can save a broken sauce – even if it’s going way past broken.