A Delicious Sauce for Fish
Whenever I write a menu, whether for home or work, I agonize over the sauce for the entrée. The sauce not only moistens the entrée, but it also gives the entire dish more character and heightens flavor. If you think about it, the sauce is really the most important part of the meal.
For example, I can take a simple salmon filet and add a miso-ginger sauce and immediately ground the entire meal in an Asian style. Or, I can take the same piece of salmon and add a buttery-lemony sauce and transport that piece of fish to France. If I am feeling Middle Eastern, I can make a lemony-tahini number that will take my fish to a different part of the world. Are you seeing what I agonize over? The sauce is my passport to flavor. Once I have the sauce down, the rest of the menu kind of writes itself. Rice and shiitake mushrooms for Asian, asparagus and potatoes for French and eggplant and couscous for a Middle Eastern-inspired dish.
This week for Shavuot, I am going all French, all the time. Particularly, I am going in to the trenches with butter. There is no substitute for butter. It is delicious and tastes like sunshine in a meadow.
Sure, I love good extra virgin olive oil, but when I get a chance to showcase butter, I am going for it.
This sauce is the perfect icing on the cake for a fish entrée. Bright and sunny flavored with a hint of luxury. Beurre (say BURR) Blanc is a cook’s best friend. Quick and easy to prepare and the ingredients are easy to find. No more boring and… (shudder), naked fish — not with this sauce in your arsenal.
Classic Beurre Blanc
This is my go-to sauce for dressing up fish for a dairy meal. The name Beurre Blanc means white butter. This classic French and luxurious sauce was made famous by Julia Child. I have deviated from her recipe by using fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar as I think it gives the sauce a bright fresh note. I also used black pepper instead of white. I think black pepper just tastes better.
The sauce takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. The secret is in removing the pan from the heat and whisking like a maniac to get the butter emulsified. If the sauce overheats, the sauce will separate…and if the sauce is too cold, the sauce will separate.
Once you get the sauce emulsified, you can transfer it to a bowl and keep it over warm water or keep it at the perfect temperature in a clean thermos. The sauce will keep for several hours this way.
Once you master the basic sauce, you can riff on it by using blood orange, tangerine or grapefruit juice instead of the lemon juice. You can also use champagne instead of white wine, and if you are really finding your inner chef, you can add shaved truffles/mushrooms or your favorite herbs such as dill, chives or wasabi to create a masterpiece.
Make 4 servings
2 medium shallots, minced finely
8 ounces white wine
2 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Kosher Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Combine the shallots, white wine, and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons.
- Add the cream to the reduction. Once the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low.
- Add the butter, one cube at a time, whisking first on the heat and then off the heat. Continue whisking butter into the reduction until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Drizzle the sauce over warm fish, serve and graciously accept the compliments.