White Butter Sauce
Beurre blanc nantais, now known as beurre blanc, is a velvety white butter sauce, traditionally made from a reduction of vinegar and shallots to which butter is added. It was created in the area of the Loire Valley between the towns of Angers and Nantes to serve with the pike, shad, and salmon that populate the Loire River.
The recipe below, which is based on the original and uses only vinegar, will surprise those familiar with a contemporary beurre blanc that uses wine or a combination of wine and vinegar. It is wonderful with all forms of fish. Although flavored vinegar can be used, I generally use plain white (distilled) vinegar. Freshly chopped herbs, or even puréed herbs, can be added at the end to vary the flavor and appearance of the sauce.
You will note that I use lightly salted butter for this recipe in place of the unsalted butter I normally use. When made with unsalted butter, the sauce tends to be a little thinner.
Makes1 cup to serve 6 to 8
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturebuttery, rich, sharp, tangy
Type of Dishbutter sauce, sauces
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- ½ cup white (distilled) vinegar
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) lightly salted butter (see Notes), softened to room temperature
In a small heavy saucepan, cook the shallots slowly in the vinegar over medium-low heat until only 1 tablespoon of liquid remains, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, waiting for each addition to melt before adding the next. The sauce will be warm and thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. Keep the sauce warm in a water bath (bain-marie) until ready to use.
In the early ’70s, Paul Bocuse and other chefs abandoned hollandaise sauce, the butter sauce of the classic French kitchen, and started using beurre blanc exclusively. Variations developed, with wine being used in place of the vinegar. Even red wine was used to create a beurre rouge (red butter sauce). Beurre blanc soon became the mainstay of nouvelle cuisine, and is used today with fish, veal, chicken and vegetables.
Beurre Blanc au Basilic (White Butter Sauce with Basil): Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil at the end of step 1.
Beurre Blanc à la Ciboulette (White Butter Sauce with Chives): Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chives after step 1.
Beurre Blanc à l’Estragan (White Butter Sauce with Tarragon): Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon at the end of step 1.
Beurre Blanc an Cresson (White Butter Sauce with Watercress PuréE): Make a dry purée of watercress following step 1 of Pâtes Fraîches Veries (page 92), using only 1 bunch of watercress. Whisk in enough of the puréed watercress to lightly color the sauce.
1988 Richard Grausman