Bearnaise is just a tarted up Hollandaise really. But it can elevate meats and fish to an astonishing new level!
I remember a colleague who told me that she resolved every week to, at least once, cook a meal instead of ordering pizza delivery. She admitted that she didn’t always succeed. She just hates to cook!
When people tell me, and often they do, that they don’t like to cook, I have to wonder. Where on the glorious, creative path to deliciousness, did they falter?
Perhaps their husband, whose mother was Martha Stewart, thought it was funny in those early days, to tease their young wife about every misstep, regaling all who would listen about her lumpy gravy on lumpy mashed potatoes. Little did he know that, had he nurtured those early efforts, he would have benefited ever after. His loss.
And then along came the children. Cute in pictures, but beastly at the table, vociferously refusing anything but chicken fingers and fries, giggling at Dad’s “Mom can’t cook” jokes.
Magazines and TV shows extol the virtues of “cultivating youthful palates,” but battling the insults and refusals seems just one of many battles in every day not worth fighting before the homework wars and the daily resistance to tooth brushing and bedtime. As long as they’re alive and not howling, it’s a victory. Get through the day. Cross the finish line without doing something unethical. Call it a win.
She reads newspaper articles about the fun of baking bread and hand rolling pasta, with the fascination of reading about some other species on some other planet. She doesn’t have time to shower, never mind bake off a pan of cinnamon buns! Who are these people with perfect children, sitting primly at the table enthusiastically munching their greens? Who are these husbands who offer to walk the dog and never forget to take out the trash?
It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to understand why she doesn’t like to cook. In fact, it would be something of a wonder if she did.
So what’s to do? Well, for one thing, let’s activate the dad. It would be nice to activate the kids, but let’s not get crazy. Dad isn’t helpless. If he can read a recipe, he can cook. Oh, he only likes to barbecue? Excellent. He can toss together a salad, microwave a potato and he’s done it! One cooks, and the other cleans up and already things are looking up! If both people are working outside the home, he isn’t “helping her” any more than she’s “helping him” by making dinner. She does the laundry. He folds and puts away.
What is wanting is not lack of interest in cooking. What is wanting is time. A good rule is, cook once, eat twice. If the family eats a chicken at a meal, cook two. That’s tomorrow done! Cook extra potatoes. There we have tomorrow’s potato salad. A bit of job sharing and some planning ahead and there is time for a bit of extra creativity and enthusiasm. Maybe the kids won’t even be so dreadful if the stress level is reduced by just that little bit.
I recall a time when I made a Hollandaise sauce beside a platter of asparagus. The kids were horrified and refused to even try it. There was, consequently, some left over. The next day I made that bit into an “on the fly” Béarnaise sauce. There was only enough for the adults. Predictably, the kids demanded some, not wanting to be excluded. After that, they loved Hollandaise. And Béarnaise. There’s no predicting kids. Don’t even try.
Béarnaise Sauce: (epicurious.com)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper; stir to coat. Stir in vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vinegar is evaporated, 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking shallots, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer shallot reduction to a small bowl and let cool completely.
Meanwhile, fill a blender with hot water to warm it; set aside. Melt remaining 1 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is foamy. Transfer butter to a measuring cup.
Drain blender and dry well. Combine egg yolks, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water in warm, dry blender. Purée mixture until smooth. Remove lid insert. With blender running, slowly pour in hot butter in a thin stream of droplets, discarding milk solids at bottom of measuring cup. Continue blending until a smooth, creamy sauce forms, 2-3 minutes. Pour sauce into a medium bowl. Stir in shallot reduction and tarragon and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
There is no way that the annoyances and stresses of daily family life can suddenly be transformed into peace and serenity, but it might be worth the effort to be sure that one member of the family isn’t shouldering an unfair amount of the load.
And if it all gets to be too much, just order that pizza. Just for today. And maybe tomorrow.