Introduction: Microwave Bearnaise/Hollandaise Sauce

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There's something about the rich, creamy quality of egg-based sauces like Bearnaise and Hollandaise that make them perfect with meat or veggies or over eggs Benedict. Making them on the stove top requires a fair amount of attention and constant mixing to ensure you don't end up with scrambled eggs or that your sauce doesn't break and separate. Mixing up these glorious sauces in the microwave instead1 removes scrambling worries and helps ensure you'll end up with a perfect emulsion every time.

You'll Need
  • 2 teaspoons shallots, chopped (omit if making Hollandaise)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon) (omit tarragon if making Hollandaise)
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar (substitute white balsamic or white wine vinegar if desired) (if making Hollandaise, you may want to add a little lemon juice and a tiny bit of lemon zest too - totally up to you though)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 ounces (1/4 cup) butter
  • For Hollandaise add 1 - 2 teaspoons coarse mustard
  • 2 medium microwave-safe bowls
  • Whisk
  • Microwave

How To
  1. Chop shallots (if using) and place in a microwave-safe bowl with wine, vinegar, tarragon, and 1 teaspoon of the butter (if making Hollandaise add mustard at this time as well)
  2. Microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes or until reduced by half
  3. Microwave remaining butter in the second microwave-safe bowl for about 45 seconds or until melted
  4. Add egg yolks to the wine mixture and mix well
  5. Pour melted butter slowly into the mixture while whisking
  6. Microwave for 5 seconds, then stir, and microwave for an additional 5 seconds. Repeat this heating and mixing about 6 times (a total of 30 seconds) until the mixture thickens
  7. Add pepper to taste
  8. Spoon over a gorgeous steak or some yummy steamed asparagus and enjoy!

How Does It Work?
In much the same way as mixing a salad dressing, the goal of Bearnaise and Hollandaise sauces is to get vinegar (or another acid) and oil (or another fat) to combine and hold in suspension (an emulsion) at least until serving. If you just poured the melted butter into the vinegar and mixed, it would separate quickly into the two ingredients. The addition of egg yolks, however, makes it possible to keep the two immiscible (un-mixable) ingredients mixed!

The water and fat present in egg yolks allows them to create weak chemical bonds with both the vinegar and the melted butter, and thus hold them to one another. In addition, by heating the egg yolks, their proteins are encouraged to unwind, making them more receptive to these bonds. When the sauce that results from the combination of these ingredients begins to cool, the proteins in the yolks coil back up a little, and the sauce thickens and becomes less liquid/runny.

1You can also make pastry cream, lemon curd, and also risotto in the microwave!
2Keep in mind these are just suggested amounts. If you like tarragon in your Hollindaise, feel free to include it. Mustard in your Bearnaise? Why the heck not?
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