Watch Chef Amar Santana Prepare an Eggless Béarnaise Sauce

Celebrity chef Amar Santana prepares an eggless Béarnaise Sauce to accompany perfectly seared scallops in Cathy Thomas’ kitchen.

There’s something magical in Amar Santana’s culinary joy. He is relaxed and quick to laugh as he cooks, a mix of mischief, out-of-the-box imagination, and well-honed skills. Santana and his business partner Ahmed Labbate opened a third restaurant in December, the Hall Global Eatery at South Coast Plaza. The innovative eatery with more than 7,500 square feet recently opened for dining in after being closed as a result of the pandemic. Their other restaurants—Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and Vaca in Costa Mesa—are open for dine-in and take-out orders.

He joined me in my home kitchen to share the secrets of how to make and use his eggless bearnaise sauce. Eggs and butter are essential in making traditional bearnaise, but his hunger for innovative thinking inspired him to create a sauce without eggs or butter.

“People want to go healthy,” the Top Chef finalist told me. “So no eggs and no butter. I wanted to think of something new. And you can use the same technique to make eggless mayonnaise.

“Bearnaise is an emulsion. I use reduced chicken stock, chicken demi-glace, to bring the sauce together and make it thick. Studying cooking in high school, it was demi that made me fall in love with cooking. As I was making it, I would taste it. It was so rich and tasted like 20 chickens in one teaspoon. That flavor profile made me fall in love.”

Celebrity Chef Amar Santana & Cathy Thomas

At my house he swirled the sauce on the plate and then topped it with three perfectly cooked sea scallops. He explained that the sauce can accompany a variety of other mains, including meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables.

It’s not the classic, but it is classically delicious. The fresh tarragon shines through the deeply rich emulsion at its core. It’s just a small part of what makes his dishes so exciting.

Drink of Choice: As of late, mezcal. Also cocktails such as a Negroni or Sazerac.

Interesting New Ingredient: Fermented black garlic molasses; it’s made by a Japanese company. He says it is complex, funky, and rich and can be used instead of balsamic drizzled over liver mousse.

Secret Talent: He has fun experimenting with fermenting different foods at home: kimchi, as well as kombucha.

Collector: He collects red wine and has some great California cabernets, such as Chateau Montelena, as well as some vintage Red Bordeaux. He gained appreciation for those during his years in Manhattan.

Home Kitchen Standouts: His pots and pans are often what people notice. He says that when you are a chef, you receive a lot of gifts—some real beauties—a lot of copper, beautiful pieces from the French Mauviel line.

Home Freezer: Frozen White Castle—the kind of food to eat in the middle of the night. He embellishes it with a squirt of sharp cheddar Easy Cheese.

Santana’s eggless bearnaise with sea scallops

Yield: 4 to 8 servings or more of sauce, depending on use, scallops for 2 (3 per person) servings
2 minced shallots
2 sprigs fresh tarragon (leaves left on stems)
2 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup chicken demiglace, see cook’s noes
Few dashes of Tabasco sauce
Juice of one lemon
2 cups blended oil, see cook’s notes
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

For Scallops: pepper and a little coarse salt, 3 sea scallops (per person) soaked in salt water (1 percent salt to 99 percent water) for10 minutes, extra-virgin olive oil, 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sprig of fresh tarragon, green pea sprouts

Cook’s notes: blended oils are often 50 percent extra-virgin olive oil and 50 percent canola oil. Santana encourages you to prepare your own chicken stock and reduce it down to a demiglace. But you can buy it online, or often Bristol Farms sells it.

1. In a large deep skillet combine shallots, tarragon sprigs, vinegar, wine, turmeric; on medium-high heat, reduce in volume to about 1/4 cup. Transfer to blender (hi-speed blender preferred). Add chicken demiglace, tabasco, and lemon juice. With motor running, add oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Add finely chopped tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat using medium-high heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil, just enough to make a nice puddle under each scallop. Add scallops (don’t crowd) atop oil. After about a minute, add butter to pan. As butter melts and lightly browns remove tarragon sprig and use butter to baste the scallops, spooning it over the tops.

3. Swirl bearnaise in circular designs on each plate and top with scallops caramelized side up, three per plate. Garnish with green pea sprouts.
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”

Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”

–Photos and video by Curt Norris

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