How to make Beurre Blanc ( butter sauce)
The Beurre Blanc is an emulsion of half-salted butter and a reduction of white wine, vinegar and shallots. The white wine and vinegar are reduced by half with the gray shallots, then the butter is gently incorporated and whipped over very low heat (do not exceed the temperature of 65 degrees) in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
This sauce is served hot as an accompaniment, without waiting, a dish, usually salmon, tuna or white fish. Water can be added before the butter is incorporated in plots. After the butter has melted, leave the shallots or pass the sauce through a sieve ( chinois) which will then make what we called a butter Nantais.
- 250 grams ( 1.1 cups) of plain or salted butter
- 50 grams ( 3.3 tablespoons) of shallot finely diced ( grey jersey shallots are best)
- 50 ml ( 3.5 tablespoons) of dry white wine (Muscadet wine is best if you can find some, other wise any french dry white white such as Anjou or saumur or burgundy white will do) you can also use dry white vermout in stead of wine.
- 25 ml ( 1.7 tablespoon) of good quality white wine vinegar
- Seasoning: salt and cayenne pepper to taste ( note that if you use salted butter you don’t need to add any salt
This recipe is actually very simple to execute, however, the real challenge reside in the temperature control while you are making the sauce.
Start by preparing and weighing all of the ingredients. ( food preparation) In this case peel and finely diced the shallots, measure the white wine, the white vinegar and cut the butter in small pieces.
instruction to make the sauce:
- In a thick bottom pan over low heat, start by melting a small piece of butter.
- when the butter is melted and foaming add all of the diced shallots in the pan and leave to “sweat”for a minute until translucent.
- Add now the white wine and white vinegar and leave to reduce untill you are left with a good tablespoon of liquid.
- You can now turn the heat off and add the 2 or 3 pieces of butter at a time (while gently stirring with a whisk until the pieces of butter starts to melt.)
- When the first pieces of butter have melted, whisk a bit more vigorously and start adding more butter in the pan.
- By now you will have to turn the heat back on to low under the pan and repeat the same process by adding more butter and whisking. !! however, you need to be very careful that the temperature of the preparation never exceed 65 degrees Celsius (150 Fahrenheit) or else the sauce will fail !! what I do is turn the heat on and off regularly and check the temperature of the bottom of the pan with my bare hands. I found that a good 50 degrees Celsius works pretty well for that sauce. 50 degrees celsius is a temperature that your hand can almost bare. so if you touch the bottom of the pan with your bare hands and it’s fire hot, that means the temperature is getting to high and you need to turn you heat off again, and continue whisking. of course the other way is to use a simple cooking thermometer or a double boiler.
- when all of the pieces of butter have been added, the mixture should have thicken an resemble a thick pale yellowish sauce. which mean your sauce is almost ready.
- you can now season the sauce with salt ( if you have not used salted butter) and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Finally, the last step consist of passing the sauce through a sieve (chinois) making sure you press down the cooked shallots to add some extra taste to the sauce.
- When the sauce is filtered, use it immediately. it is best served with a piece of poached fish.
Additional notes: remember that the Beurre Blanc is a base sauce for fish and that it can be enhanced in various ways with an addition of fish stock, fresh herbs, spices or pureed vegetables.
What if it looks like it failed: if you leave you sauce to cool down too long it will start to thicken into something that looks more like a thick yellow buttery paste. if that happens don’t panic just add one or two tablespoons of hot water or fish stock in and whisk well over low heat. The sauce will quickly get back that nice shine and whitish color to it.