Sauce Nivernaise

This is a sauce described by Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking; incidentally she suggests hollandaise as a sauce for œufs mollets (very soft-boiled eggs) – imagine. I once employed a waiter from Nevers, who had never heard of sauce nivernaise. Perhaps I should have asked a chef from Nevers. (I once asked a waiter from Bandol what tapénade was. I’ve really got it in for tapenade. He didn’t know either.) Anyway, its origin doesn’t matter. It’s an absolutely wonderful sauce with lamb and grilled fish of the snapper or mullet variety, and is up there with bagna cauda as a dipping sauce for veg. This is a Béarnaise made with garlic and parsley butter – snail butter. A much better sauce than paloise – a Béarnaise made with mint.

My method is slightly different (lazier, actually).

Ingredients

  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 2–3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, bashed
  • 2–3 sprigs thyme
  • ½ a bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 or 3 parsley stalks
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 200 g butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 heaped tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt
  • lemon juice

Method

Pour the wine into a small saucepan with the shallots, bashed garlic, thyme, bay, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Bring slowly to a simmer, turn down the heat, and let the flavours infuse for 10 minutes. Boil down until about 2 tbsp are left. Strain this off, pressing on the solids, into another pan, ideally enamelled cast iron. Whisk together the infusion and the egg yolks, and thicken as described in the hollandaise recipe. Melt the butter while you are doing this, and when the eggs have thickened satisfactorily, slowly whisk in the melted butter. Stir in the chopped garlic and parsley and season with salt and a drop of lemon juice if you think it necessary (the wine may not have enough acidity). This sauce is better if it’s slightly thicker than hollandaise, although it would really be at its best if one could chew it. Even Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking) can’t explain how we could do that.

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