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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sauce Béarnaise, its Creation, its Creator and its Connection with Béarn. Sauce Béarnaise in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Filet Mignon with Béarnaise Sauce
Sauce Béarnaise (pronounced bay-are-naiz) is a superstar.  On steaks, with chicken, with salmon, over vegetables or poached eggs and on nearly everything else Sauce Béarnaise has been popular for almost 200 years.
Sauce Béarnaise is a “child” of Sauce Hollandaise
Sauce Béarnaise is a “child” of Sauce Hollandaise.  In the 1830’s the chef and restaurateur Jean-Louis Françoise-Collinet, took the recipe for Sauce Hollandaise, omitted the lemon juice and added white wine vinegar, shallots, chervil, and tarragon and made Sauce Béarnaise. It's the tarragon and white wine vinegar that supply the tang that makes us Sauce Béarnaise devotees.

Steamed Asparagus with Sauce Hollandaise.

The same chef Collinet, in the same restaurant, Pavillon Henry IV, 20 km (12.5 miles) from Paris in 1837,  created soufflé potatoes. The story of soufflé potatoes will need a separate post.
Sauce Béarnaise on French Menus today:
Brochette de Rognon de Veau Grillée Sauce Béarnaise – A skewer of grilled veal sweetbreads served with Sauce Béarnaise.

Steak with Sauce Béarnaise.
Chateaubriand Grillé Sauce Béarnaise, Pommes Dauphines Tomates Roties au Sésame et Pointes d'Asperges – A grilled Chateaubriand Steak served with Potatoes Dauphin, asparagus spears and tomatoes roasted with sesame seeds. (Potatoes Dauphine are potato croquettes mixed with choux pastry, and fried).
Coquelet de Grain Fermier Désossé Grillé, Sauce Béarnaise, Pommes Frites- A young, grilled deboned, grain-fed, farm-raised cockerel served with Sauce Béarnaise and French fries.

Flank steak, Sauce Béarnaise, and watercress.

Daurade Royale de Loctudy, Langoustine Grillée, Céleri-rave, Sauce Béarnaise Gilthead seabream from the fishing village of Loctudy in Brittany served with a Dublin Bay prawn, Sauce Béarnaise, and accompanied by that tasty member of the celery family, celeriac.
The fishing village of Loctudy is in the department of Finistère in Bretagne, Brittany. The fish and shellfish from Brittany are considered the best in France. Even the name of the fishing port that brought in a particular fish is important when choosing the very best fish; a sort of Terroir of the sea.  Finistère is the most western part of mainland France and sticks out into the Atlantic. More about Brittany and its connection to Britain at the end of this post,
Tronçon de Turbot Grillé, Sauce Béarnaise – A cut from a  grilled turbot, the fish, served with Sauce Bearnaise, Here the cut, a  tronçon (pronounced tron-son) is used with its original meaning, a cut from across a flatfish.  Now the word tronçon is also used for meats where it indicates broad cuts.

Steak and Sauce Béarnaise,

Cold Entrées (French first courses).
Roast-beef Froid, Sauce Béarnaise – Slices of cold roast beef served with Sauce Béarnaise.
Saumon Froid aux Asperges Vertes Accompagné d'Une Sauce Béarnaise  – Cold salmon and green asparagus served with Sauce Béarnaise.

Salmon with Sauce Béarnaise.
Photograph courtesy of

N.B. Some menu listings may note Sauce Béarnaise Maison, the house’s own Sauce Béarnaise. They are not indicating that only their’s is homemade and other restaurants are selling a store-bought sauce. Instead, the wording advises they are making slight changes to the original recipe and creating their own version; the Next Generation.
The name Béarnaise
The name Béarnaise may seem to indicate that the sauce comes from the old province of Béarn, once part of the independent kingdom of Navarre that had one border in Spain and the other in France. While Navarre had many recipes of its own none were related to Sauce Béarnaise. Nevertheless, when the chef Collinet named the sauce, he did have Béarn and Navarre on his mind. His restaurant was called The Pavillon Henry IV, and Henry IV was, before assuming that title, Henry III of Navarre and Prince of the Principality of Béarn; he had spent much of his childhood in Béarn. (Henry IV was, in France, also called the Good King Henry though few French citizens, looking back, would call him good.  With the evil will and drive of Catherine de Medici, then the Dowager Queen of France, he planned and carried out the massacre of France's Protestants.

Flag of the of Béarn, France
In Alexandre Dumas (Pere)’s book The Three Musketeers,
 the hero d'Artagnan comes from Béarn.  
When Henry received the French crown, he also became the first Bourbon King of France. As part of the arrangements that made Henry King of France, he also brought the French part of the kingdom of Navarre on the North-side of the Western Pyrenees into France. In international relations, something from Navarre had always been offered in trade and even England had had two queens who were born in Navarre. Today the French part of the old province of Navarre including Béarn is part of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the new super-region of Occitanie. The Pyrénées-Atlantiques reaches from the Pyrénées at the Spanish border to the plains below. (The city of Pau had been the capital of the province of Bearn and is now the capital of the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques).
Béarnaise and Mother Sauces.

The French chef Antonin Careme in the early 1800s, wrote down all the laws for France's Haute Cuisine, many of which he had developed, including the idea of mother sauces.  A mother sauce is a basic sauce, and with small changes, a new sauce is created. These new sauces are called the children of the mother sauce. Seventy years later Auguste Escoffier, together with his collaborators, in the early 1900s, adapted French cuisine for the first half of the 1900s. They changed Careme’s four mother sauces to five.

The five mother sauces are: 

Sauce Hollandaise - Apart from its name this sauce has nothing to do with Holland;
Tomato Sauce;
Sauce Béchamel - Named after Louis de Béchamel the treasurer of King Louis XIV (the Sun King);
Sauce Espagnol - Apart from its name this sauce has nothing to do with Spain;
Veloute - The origin of this name was lost in the smoky kitchens of the 1800s.

The most famous child of Sauce Hollandaise is Sauce Bearnaise, and Sauce Bearnaise now has many children and grandchildren of its own.

A few of the Children of Sauce Bearnaise

Sauce Choron.

The chef Alexandre Étienne Choron (1837 - 1924), took Sauce Béarnaise and added tomatoes. Sauce Choron is served on steak, chicken, eggs, and vegetables.

Sauce Foyot or Sauce Valois.

A chef whose name has been lost took Sauce Béarnaise and begat Sauce Foyot also called Sauce Valois. Sauce Foyot is Sauce Béarnaise with the addition of the glazed cooking juices of the roasted meat. With Sauce Foyot’s taste, it is a perfect addition for grilled meats.

Sauce Palois.

Another chef whose name I cannot find took Sauce Béarnaise and begat Sauce Palois. Sauce Palois is Sauce Béarnaise with the tarragon replaced with mint. That makes Sauce Palois a very popular French sauce with lamb dishes where it is usually served warm.


Brittany was taken over by Celtic tribes who fled Britain as succeeding waves of conquerors made their lives impossible. The first group fled with the Roman invasions, the next groups left when the Germanic tribes of Angels and Saxon ravaged their villages and the final groups left when overrun by the Vikings.   
When visiting Brittany around the 21 of June, the longest day of the year you may join local, make believe, Druid ceremonies celebrated with a great deal of the Druid's alcoholic honey-based mead called Chouchen. (Chouchen is available in Brittany all year round and will also be flavoring dishes on local menus).For those who prefer it, Champagne is also available anywhere in Brittany.

The Druids from Southern Britain would have taken the shortest possible route to France. They would have left from somewhere close to where the Port of Falmouth, England is now and would have reached Amor, the land that would become Bretagne, somewhere close to Plouescat, France.  Plouescat today is a seaside resort with its own small Casino; it is very popular with the French.

Falmouth, England to Plouescat, France is 179 km  (111 miles)
Map courtesy of Google Maps ©

Today, the Pavilion Henri IV is a boutique hotel with a beautiful restaurant set in a classified historical building that was completed in 1603. In this building, the future Sun King, who built the Chateau de Versailles, King Louis XIV, was born on September 5, 1638. The hotel and its restaurant (that I have not yet dined in) is located in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines), 18 km (11 miles) from the center of Paris and can be reached by train in 15 minutes. The Pavillon Henry IV is 570 km (350 miles) away from the old province of Béarn.

The Hotel and Restaurant Pavilion Henri IV

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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