Butter Sauces

The fifth leading sauce is hollandaise. Hollandaise and its cousin, béarnaise, are unlike the sauces we have been studying because their major ingredient is not stock or milk but butter.

Before tackling the complexities of hollandaise, we first look at simpler butter preparations used as sauces.

1. Melted butter.

This is the simplest butter preparation of all, and one of the most widely used, especially as a dressing for vegetables.

Unsalted or sweet butter has the freshest taste and is ideal for all sauce-making.

2. Clarified butter.

Butter consists of butterfat,water, and milk solids. Clarified butter is purified but-terfat,with water and milk solids removed (see Figure 8.7). It is necessary for many cooking operations. Clarified butter is used in sautéing because the milk solids of unclarified butter would burn at such high temperatures. It is used in making hollandaise because the water of unclarified butter would change the consistency of the sauce.

3. Brown butter.

Known as beurre noisette (burr nwah zett) in French, this is whole melted butter that has been heated until it turns light brown and gives off a nutty aroma. It is usually prepared at the last minute and served over fish, white meats, eggs, and vegetables.

Care must be taken not to burn the butter, as the heat of the pan will continue to brown it even after it is removed from the fire.

4. Black butter.

Black butter, or beurre noir (burr nwahr), is made like brown butter but heated until it is a little darker, and it is flavored with a few drops of vinegar. Capers, chopped parsley, or both are sometimes added.

To avoid dangerous spattering of the vinegar in the hot butter, many chefs pour the butter over the food item, then deglaze the pan with the vinegar and pour that over the item.

5. Meunière butter.

This is served with fish cooked à la Meunière (see p. 470). Brown butter is seasoned with lemon juice and poured over the fish, which has been sprinkled with chopped parsley.

As in the case of black butter, dangerous spattering can result when moisture is added to hot butter.To avoid this, cooks often sprinkle the lemon juice directly on the fish before pouring on the brown butter.

Procedure for Clarifying Butter_

Method 1

1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.

2. Skim the froth from the surface.

3. Carefully pour off the clear melted butter into another container, leaving the milky liquid at the bottom of the saucepan. Method 2

1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.

2. Skim the froth from the surface.

3. Leave the pan on the heat and continue to skim the froth from the surface at intervals. The water in the bottom will boil and gradually evaporate.

4. When the butter looks clear and no longer forms a scum on top, strain off the butter through cheesecloth into another container.

You will need 1Vi lb (625 g) raw butter to make 1 lb (500 g) clarified butter; 1 lb (500 g) raw butter yields 12 to 13 oz (about 400 g) clarified butter.

Figure 8.7 Clarifying butter.

Figure 8.7 Clarifying butter.

(a) Skim the foam from the top of the (b) Ladle off the clear, melted fat. (c) Continue until only the milky liquid remains melted butter. in the bottom of the pan.

6. Compound butters.

Compound butters are made by softening raw butter and mixing it with various flavoring ingredients.The mixture is then rolled into a cylinder in waxed paper. Compound butters have two main uses:

• Slices of the firm butter are placed on hot grilled items at service time.The butter melts over the item and sauces it.

• Small portions are swirled into sauces to finish them and give them a desired flavor.

Easy as they are to make, compound butters can transform a plain broiled steak into a truly special dish.

The favorite compound butter for steaks is maître d'hôtel (may truh doh tel) butter. Variations are given after the recipe (p. 179).

7. Beurre blanc.

Beurre blanc (burr blon) is a sauce made by whipping a large quantity of raw butter into a small quantity of a flavorful reduction of white wine and vinegar so that the butter melts and forms an emulsion with the reduction.The technique is basically the same as monter au beurre (p. 167) except that the proportion of butter to liquid is much greater.

Beurre blanc can be made quickly and easily by adding cold butter all at once and whipping vigorously over moderately high heat.The temperature of the butter keeps the sauce cool enough to prevent it from separating. Be sure to remove it from the heat before all the butter is melted, and continue whipping. It is better to remove the sauce from the heat too soon rather than too late because it can always be rewarmed slightly if necessary. Figure 8.8 illustrates this procedure.

Some chefs prefer to use low heat and add the butter a little at a time in order to reduce the chance of overheating and breaking the sauce.The process takes a little longer, but the result is the same.

Beurre blanc should be held at a warm,not a hot, temperature and stirred or whipped from time to time so the fat and water do not separate. For more stable mixtures of fat and water—called emulsions—see the discussion of hollandaise beginning on page 180.

Figure 8.8

Preparing beurre blanc.

Figure 8.8

Preparing beurre blanc.

(a) Reduce the liquids (usually wine and vinegar) with chopped shallots.

(b) Whip in the raw butter just until the butter is melted and forms a smooth sauce.

(c) Leave in the shallots or strain them out. Strained beurre blanc has a light, smooth, creamy texture.

Butter-Enriched Sauces

As already noted, the technique for making beurre blanc is the same as monter au beurre, except that the proportion of butter is much higher. This same technique can be used to finish a great variety of sauces, usually white sauces, although brown sauces can be finished the same way.

To improvise a butter-enriched version of a classic white sauce, refer to the sauce variations on page 173. In place of the 1 qt (1 L) velouté or other white sauce base, substitute 1 pt (500 mL) concentrated white stock. Combine with the flavoring ingredients indicated in the variation. Reduce to a slightly syrupy consistency.Whip in 8 oz (250 g) raw butter and strain.

Many other sauces for sautéed meat, poultry, or fish items can be improvised using the same technique. Deglaze the sauté pan with wine, stock, or other liquid, add desired flavoring ingredients, reduce, and finish by whipping in a generous quantity of raw butter. Season and strain.

Yield: about 1 lb (500g)

U.S. Metric Ingredients

■ Procedure

1 lb 500 g Butter 1/4 cup 60 mL Chopped parsley li/2 floz 50 mL Lemon juice pinch pinch White pepper

Per 1 ounce:

Calories, 45; Protein 1 g; Fat, 3.5 g (66% cal.); Cholesterol, 0 mg; Carbohydrates, 3 g; Fiber,1 g; Sodium, 5 mg.

1. Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at low speed until it is smooth and creamy.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and beat slowly until completely mixed.

3. Roll the butter into a cylinder about 1 in. (2V2 cm) thick in a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Chill until firm.

4. To serve, cut slices i4 in. (V2 cm) thick and place on broiled or grilled items just before service.


For each kind of seasoned butter, add to 1 lb (500 g) butter the listed ingredients instead of the parsley, lemon juice, and pepper.

Anchovy Butter

2 oz (60 g) anchovy fillets, mashed to paste

Garlic Butter

1 oz (30 g) garlic, mashed to a paste (see p. 523) Escargot (Snail) Butter

Garlic butter plus V2 cup (125 mL) chopped parsley, salt, white pepper Shrimp Butter

V2 lb (250 g) cooked shrimp and shells, ground very fine. Force shrimp butter through a fine sieve to remove pieces of shell.

Mustard Butter

3-4 oz (100 g) Dijon-style mustard

Herb Butter

Chopped fresh herbs to taste

Scallion or Shallot Butter

2 oz (60 g) minced scallions or shallots

Curry Butter

4-6 tsp (20-30 mL) curry powder heated gently with 1 oz (30 g) butter, then cooled.

Continue reading here: Beurre Blanc

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