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.
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.
Butter consists of butterfat, water, and milk solids. Clarified butter is purified butterfat, with water and milk solids removed (see Figure 8.13). 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. Method 1 in the procedure below is the most widely used in North American and European kitchens. Method 2 is used for the style of clarified butter called ghee, used in Indian cuisine.
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.
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.
This is served with fish cooked à la Meunière. 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.
Compound butters are made by softening raw butter and mixing it with 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.
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 the butter melts and forms an emulsion with the reduction. The technique is basically the same as monter au beurre, except 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 8.14 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.