Traditional Beurre Blanc

Beurre Nantais

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Yield:

    2 cups

Appears in

Sauces

By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

The original version, from Brittany, is almost always prepared with Muscadet wine, which is made from grapes grown in the area surrounding the city of Nantes on France’s Atlantic coast. Muscadet has the crisp, clean flavor and the acidic edge essential to a successful beurre blanc. If Muscadet is unavailable or too expensive, other wines can be used, but if only wines containing relatively little acidity are available, it may be necessary to add a few additional drops of vinegar to wake up the sauce at the end.

The recipe that follows contains a small amount of heavy cream, which, although not essential, will help start the emulsion. A great deal of myth still surrounds the addition of the butter to the flavor base. Many authors insist that the butter be added in tiny increments, often as little as a tablespoon (15 milliliters) at a time, over low heat, and imply that the sauce will break if the butter is added any faster. In fact, the butter can be cut into relatively large cubes (about 1 inch/2.5 cm on each side) and added all at once over high heat. The keys are to not stop whisking and not let the sauce boil. Seasonings can be added at the end. Traditionally, 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) fine salt is added per 2 cups (500 milliliters) sauce, but diners today often find this to be slightly too much.

Ingredients

shallot, finely chopped 3 oz 75 g
white wine ½ cup 125 ml
white wine vinegar ½ cup 125 ml
heavy cream or other liquid ¼ cup 60 ml
butter, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes 1 lb 500 g
salt and pepper to taste to taste

Method

  1. Combine the shallots with the wine and vinegar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently simmer the mixture until practically all the liquid has evaporated (reduce by about 90 percent). (A)

  2. Add the cream. If cream is not being used, the same amount of another liquid, such as water, must be added, or the sauce will be too thick. (B)

  3. Check the inside of the saucepan to make sure it has not browned, which would discolor the sauce. Wipe off any browning with a wet towel.
  4. Add the butter to the shallot infusion. Quickly whisk the sauce over high heat until all the butter has been incorporated. (C, D)

  5. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce seems flat, add more vinegar, a few drops at a time. If the sauce tastes harsh or overly acidic, whisk in more butter.
  6. Most chefs prefer to strain the beurre blanc, but for some dishes the minced shallots provide an appealing contrast to the pale sauce.