I first learned how to make a proper beurre blanc during my short tenure at culinary school. My teacher, Chef Richard, was a little French man with a thick accent, a dry raspy voice and even drier sense of humor. I adored him from the very first day of class, not only for his no-nonsense attitude, but because of how passionate he was about the culinary arts. He studied the masters like Escoffier and Careme, then spent his whole life practicing and perfecting their methods.
Out of all the sauces Chef Richard taught us to make, I loved making beurre blanc the most. Mainly because it was so ridiculously buttery and delicious to eat, but also because it required paying attention and applying proper technique without being overly fussy like some of the other sauces (I’m looking at you hollandaise). Beurre blanc literally translates to “white butter” in French, and in it’s most basic form, it’s made with white wine, shallots, and butter. LOTS of butter. Once you master the technique, you can switch up the liquids and add all sorts of spices and aromatics to make it more interesting and unique, like this.
Although beurre blanc sounds – and even looks – difficult to make, it really isn’t. You just need to keep a few key tips in mind. First, it’s important that you reduce the liquid down until there’s almost nothing left. In French, this is referred to as “au sec,” which literally translates to “nearly dry.” Doing this ensures a deeply concentrated flavor and a nice, thick texture. Once you’ve reduced the wine down, it’s time to add the butter. In French, this is called “monter au beurre,” and means to mount with butter. It’s very, very, very important that you take your time during this step to ensure the butter emulsifies into the sauce properly, otherwise it could break, and that would be bad news bears.
Before you even begin reducing the liquid, cut your butter into small pieces and then keep it in the fridge until needed. Cold butter is key. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, while constantly whisking, just a few pieces at a time. Don’t add more butter until the previous pieces have melted. If the pan cools down too much, place it back on a low flame for a few seconds just to warm it back up. If the pan is too hot, you risk breaking the sauce. Just take your time and go slow. There’s no need to rush!
This sauce is a perfect example of how using top-quality ingredients can really make a difference in your food. Make sure you use a dry white wine that’s good enough to drink, and try to stay away from anything that’s sweet or heavily oaked. Simpler is better. It’s also important to use a really good quality butter to give the sauce a silkier mouth-feel and overall better taste. I use Finlandia, which has a higher butterfat percentage than regular butter, and is made from the milk of (mostly) grass-fed cows, which gives it a more pronounced buttery flavor. When there’s only three ingredients in a sauce, the quality of each one really does matter.
Beurre blanc should be served as soon as it’s ready since doesn’t hold or reheat very well. As for what to serve it with? Seafood is best, and the most classic, but it’s also lovely with poultry and vegetables. I especially love it with a nice piece of seared barramundi, which is the fish featured in the photos.
Thank you to Finlandia Butter and Cheese for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small pieces
- salt and white pepper to taste
- Add the shallot and white wine to a small saucepan and bring up to a boil. Simmer until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Remove the pan from the heat and begin whisking in the butter, one piece at a time, being sure not to add a new piece of butter until the first one has been fully incorporated.
- If the pan gets too cool to melt the butter, you can turn the heat on to low every so often to gently warm it back up. Be careful not to let the sauce boil to get too hot as it can cause the sauce to break.
- Once all the butter has been incorporated, taste the sauce and season it with salt and white pepper. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the shallots to extract every last bit. Straining the sauce may be skipped for a more rustic presentation.
- Serve the beurre blanc immediately with poultry, seafood or vegetables. This sauce will not reheat well.
- This is a very basic recipe and can be adjusted to suit a variety of flavors. Experiment with different herbs and spices in the reduction, or by swapping out some of the white wine for a different liquid, such as a fruit juice.