Yesterday we wrote about LoveTheWild, a line of frozen fish entrées with pats of flavored butter (compound butter) that melt into a sauce.
The concept of compound butter comes from French cuisine, but French butter sauces don’t stop there.
Today, we take on three butter preparations that are used as sauces—sauces that you can easily make to spruce up your evening meal. You don’t need a lot of it to add richness to your dish.
There are other French butter-based sauces, of course: Check them out in our Butter Glossary.
BEURRE BLANC & BEURRE ROUGE (WHITE AND RED BUTTER SAUCES)
French for white butter, beurre blanc is a hot emulsified butter sauce made popular in Loire Valley cuisine. There it is made with Muscadet, the region’s best-selling white wine, which has been made since the late 16th or early 17th century.
The ingredients of beurre blanc—and the other sauces in this article—are simple:
Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar.
Chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, basil, parsley or chives.
Optional: bay leaf and peppercorns.
It is a popular sauce for fish and shellfish, including poached fish and Coquilles Saint-Jacques; as well as vegetables, such as asparagus. With the latter, a splash of tarragon vinegar or a bit of fresh tarragon is added——not part of the original recipe, nor are any fresh herbs. Nor are the bay leaf and peppercorns added by some cooks (photo #1).
To make the emulsion, cold, whole butter is blended into the hot reduction of wine and vinegar. It is similar to the mother sauce hollandaise in concept, but is considered neither a mother sauce nor a compound butter.
Beurre rouge, a variant of beurre blanc sauce, is made by substituting a dry red wine for the white wine and red wine vinegar for the white wine vinegar. The red wine supplies color and more of a tang.
Here’s a recipe for beurre blanc.
Some beurre blanc history: The chef Clémence Prau Lefeuvre of the Loire restaurant La Buvette de la Marine, is credited with the invention of beurre blanc. Cooking at the beginning of the 20th century, she developed the recipe by accident.
The story is that she intended to prepare a béarnaise sauce for a pike dish, but forgot to add the tarragon and egg yolks.
BEURRE NOISETTE (BROWN BUTTER SAUCE)
For more depth of flavor, the butter is cooked longer. A step up from beurre blanc is beurre noisette (photo #2).
Literally meaning hazelnut butter, but commonly referred to as brown butter, it is melted butter that’s cooked until the milk solids turn the light golden brown color of hazelnuts and the butter gives off a nutty aroma.
Beurre noisette is popular for sautéeing and saucing meat, poultry, fish and fruit; as a sauce for pasta and vegetables; and in baking biscuits, cakes and cookies. We like it with polenta and grains.
Here’s a recipe for beurre noisette.