Beurre blanc is a classic French butter sauce, enlivened with added capers, fresh dill or other herbs. It is a delicious and fabulously rich and tangy sauce ideal for sear-roasted, grill, barbecued or baked fish.
It can also be used for chicken and white meals such as turkey or pork.
The secret to keeping the sauce emulsified is to use cold butter and to add the butter a little at a time while whisking to blend it into the sauce.
There is a delightful legend (true perhaps) that Beurre blanc was invented by accident by a chef preparing a béarnaise sauce who forgot to add egg yolks and tarragon. The creation was a hot emulsified butter sauce made with vinegar and white wine.
The natural emulsifiers in butter are enough to form an oil-in-water emulsion.
This article describes how to make this delightful sauce, with a variety of recipes and some great dishes that showcase its features.
A well-made beurre blanc sauce is rich, tangy and buttery, that is lighter than sauces made with egg yolk. It has a neutral delicate flavor by itself, and this means that it does not overwhelm dishes such as fish, scallops and other shellfish and seafood. It also means that any additional flavorings such as dill, lemon and lime shine through and are fully expressed.
A good beurre blanc sauce should be should be light, liquid and airy, though with just enough thickness to cling to the food when poured on, The excess sauce can be combined with the food by the diner when eating the dish.
Beurre blanc is prepared by first by reducing wine, vinegar or lemon juice with herbs and chopped shallots, down over moderate heat until it is almost dry. Cream is sometimes added to act as a stabilizer, but this is unnecessary. A series of cold, bite-size cubes of butter are then gradually whisked into the hot sauce.
The temperature at this stage is critical:
There are many variations to the basic recipe including using a dry red wine instead of the white wine to make Beurre rouge. Lemon and dill are often added for using with fish and seafood dishes. Lots of other herbs and spices can be used.
In a medium size saucepan bring the wine, lemon juice and shallots to a boil over medium heat. Keep boiling for 3 - 6 minutes, until the mixture reduces in volume and thickens a little. Add the crème fraiche to the mixture and simmer it for an extra two minutes. Next slowly add the butter, one cube after the other making sure that each piece of butter is fully dissolved in the mixture before adding the next cube. After adding and melting the last cube of butter, remove the pan from the stove. The shallots can be filtered out of the sauce if desired. Season the beurre blanc sauce with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.
Heat the wine and shallots in a medium-size saucepan over moderate to high heat, stirring frequently. The aim is to render down the wine until it is concentrated with most of the liquid evaporated. It should have a glazy appearance. This generally takes 6 - 8 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and using a whisk add the butter cubes 1-2 at a time, waiting for each to melt before adding the other. The sauce should become thick and creamy. Warm the mixture slightly if the sauce cools and the butter takes too long to melt. But don't overheat it, as this could ruin the sauce.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper and red pepper flake. Taste and add more lemon juice, pepper and salt if required for the taste you want.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C). Dry each of the scallops with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large heavy sauté pan with oil until the oil shimmers and just starts to smoke. Take a batch of scallops and sear them on each side until they have a light golden brown color. This should take about 60 seconds per side. Remove the cooked scallops with slotted metal spoon and add to a warm serving platter. Pour the warm beurre blanc over the scallops and top each serving with chopped chives. Serve immediately.