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Chef Essentials: Beurre Blanc

Chef Essentials: Beurre Blanc

The Culinary Institute of America

Traditionally, beurre blanc is prepared as an integral part of the shallow- poaching process, using the reduction cooking liquid (cuisson). Another common practice is to prepare a reduction separately and make the beurre blanc in a larger batch so it can be used as a grand sauce on which derivative sauces are based. As with hollandaise, beurre blanc derivatives are prepared by either varying the ingredients in the reduction or altering the garnish ingredients. Beurre rouge, for instance, is made by using red wine in the reduction.

The quality of the butter is critical to the success of a beurre blanc. Unsalted butter is best because the salt level can better be controlled to taste later on. Check the butter carefully for a creamy texture and sweet aroma. Cube the butter and keep it cool.

A standard reduction for a beurre blanc is made from dry white wine and shallots. (When prepared as part of a shallow-poached dish, the cooking liquid becomes the reduction used in the sauce.) Other ingredients often used in the reduction include vinegar or citrus juice; chopped herbs including tarragon, basil, chives, or chervil; cracked peppercorns; and sometimes garlic, ginger, lemongrass, saffron, and other flavoring ingredients.

A small amount of reduced heavy cream is occasionally added to stabilize the emulsion. To use cream, reduce it by half separately. Carefully simmer the cream until it thickens and has a rich, ivory-yellow color. The more reduced the cream, the greater its stabilizing effect. The more stable the sauce, the longer it will last during service. However, the flavor of cream will overpower the fresh taste of the butter.

Be sure that the pan is of a nonreactive metal. Bi-metal pans, such as copper or anodized aluminum lined with stainless steel, are excellent choices for this sauce.

A whisk may be used to incorporate the butter into the sauce, but many chefs prefer to allow the motion of the pan swirling over the burner or flattop to incorporate the butter. Straining is optional for this sauce, but if you choose to strain either the reduction or the finished sauce, you will need a sieve. Once prepared, the sauce may be kept warm in the container used to prepare it, or it may be transferred to a clean bain-marie, ceramic vessel, or wide-necked vacuum bottle.