Butter sauce

Beurre blanc is a staple French sauce, but these days I find it simultaneously too rich and too acidic. It also feels increasingly less relevant given today’s healthier diets and habits. The recipe this week is a simple butter sauce made along the same principles but with quite a different end result: far lighter and less cloying, but full of flavour nonethless. It is still sharp and rich, but well-balanced rather than an exercise in excess. Some basic points to get right….. Cook the shallot reduction slowly so the shallots are tender by the time all the liquid has evaporated. Unlike a classic beurre blanc where they are ultimately discarded, we are going to blend them into the sauce, so they need to be tender (to give body to the sauce) and sweet (to counter the vinegar). The water lightens the sauce and makes it much more stable, as does blending it rather than whisking in diced ice cold butter. I remember one service when a very traditional chef called me a cowboy for making it this way, despite his having split 3 times! The chardonnay vinegar at the end adds another lovely sweet note, but the addition of the rosemary is the real game-changer; it adds a welcome savoury depth to the sauce, that would otherwise be all richness and what I call “top-notes” (acidity). Remember only to leave it to infuse for 5 minutes, or the tannins will be released and the fragrant forest flavour will become bitter and less pleasant, much like an over-brewed cup of tea. This is a great use of the “Au bon beurre” butter, and would be delicious served with any of the fish in the hamper. You could even steam some of the shellfish and add to the sauce along with any juices, then pour over some baked plaice or monkfish. Another option is to add some wild mushrooms to the sauce and pour it over some baked chicken thighs, emulsifying it with the juices that come from the chicken. It’s a great vehicle for flavour, a gastronomic “wall of sound”.


Butter sauce

60g       Banana shallot, peeled & thinly sliced (1 large shallot)

30g       White wine vinegar

75g       White wine


100g     Water

100g     Whipping cream

250g     Salted butter, melted (or unsalted with a large pinch of salt added)


1/2       Lemon, juice of

1 tsp     Chardonnay vinegar

2          Rosemary sprigs


-           Place the shallot, wine and white wine vinegar in a pan and heat on the stove on the lowest heat until it has reduced completely. It will still be moist, but there should be no visible liquid.


-           Add the water and cream, and bring to a boil then transfer to the jug of a blender.


-           Blend until smooth (with the shallots still in), then add the butter in a steady stream until emulsified.


-           Once all emulsified, add the lemon juice and chardonnay vinegar.


-           Add the rosemary and leave to infuse for 5 mins, then then pass through a sieve into a pan.


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