Beurre blanc is creamy and tangy, voluptuous yet delicate, and inspires an outstanding upgrade for salmon, sole, poached eggs, shrimp, or a plate of asparagus for a special occasion. You’ll want to drizzle this velvety, rich butter sauce over any poached or broiled fish.
Pieces of cold butter whisked into a reduction of white wine, vinegar, and shallots creates a buerre blanc sauce. If you’ve ever added cold butter to thicken a pan sauce, you have made a warm butter emulsion—it’s the same technique used in making this sauce.
Here, like many modern chefs, we break with tradition and use a portion of cream to create a more stable sauce than butter alone. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Although it should be served immediately, you can hold it in a warm place for about an hour, whisking it from time to time.
Why Did My Beurre Blanc Break?
There are a few reasons why your beurre blanc may split (the butter melts and separates from the sauce.)
- If the butter is not cold enough, the emulsion could be disrupted.
- Other reasons for the sauce breaking are not whisking briskly enough, adding the butter too quickly, or adding butter that is too warm.
One possible way to fix this is to take the sauce off the heat and whisk in a few small pieces of ice to keep the sauce and butter from becoming too hot to emulsify.
Can I Make the Sauce Ahead of Time?
Beurre blanc is really meant to be served immediately. You can keep it warm on the back burner of the stove, whisking it often, for about an hour, you are better off making it right before you are going to serve it.
If you make the sauce and refrigerate it overnight, there is about a 50/50 chance you can reheat it without it breaking. Set the pan over low heat, add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream, and whisk constantly until the sauce is hot, moving the pan on and off the burner to keep it from getting too hot, if necessary.
If it does break, it will still have plenty of good flavor to drizzle over vegetables or fish.
Beurre Blanc Variations
There are plenty of good ways to use beurre blanc as a base sauce to create another sauce altogether. Here are a few examples:
- Buerre rouge is a more assertive sauce that would be good to serve over steak. Make it by substituting red wine and red wine vinegar in the reduction.
- For a light, lemony version of beurre blanc, substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, and add some finely grated lemon zest.
- Stir in some fresh chopped herbs like parsley, tarragon, or chives for an herby sauce. Whisk in a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard for a piquant mustard sauce.
More Mother Sauce Recipes for You!
Classic Beurre Blanc Sauce
- 9 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of white pepper
Make the shallot reduction:
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until shallots are soft and translucent but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the dry white wine and white wine vinegar; cook, stirring occasionally to reduce the liquid until about 2 to 3 tablespoons remain.
Add the cream:
Add the cream and salt to the pan and bring to a boil, over medium-heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Strain the sauce:
Pour the sauce through a fine-meshed strainer into a small bowl and press down using a spoon to extract as much liquid as you can. Rinse out the saucepan.
Add the butter to strained sauce and season:
Return the strained sauce to the pan and reduce the heat down to low. Whisking vigorously, add the remaining 8 tablespoons butter, a few pieces at time. When each addition is incorporated, add more butter, until all of it is incorporated and the sauce looks creamy and coats the back of a spoon. It will resemble heavy cream. (It is not a thick sauce.) Stir in the salt and pepper.
Serve the sauce:
Serve the sauce immediately. If not using right away, keep it on the side of the stove to maintain a lukewarm temperature until ready to use. Just before serving, reheat over low heat, whisking constantly, until hot.
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