Today’s cooks are clearly eager to learn about fresh, seasonal, and healthy sauces, but over the past few weeks I have been reminded that people still LOVE butter sauces. I rarely make them but this weekend we had a birthday celebration for my friend, Mark, so I decided to splurge.
Mark and another dear friend, Kris, grew up in families with Scandinavian roots. When they get together around the holidays, they often share buttery tales: Mom spread butter on her chocolate cake, Grandma refused her buffet plate of lutefisk until the fish and potatoes were visibly swimming in it, entire cubes of butter were the norm just unwrapped and plopped on the top of steaming green vegetables. I’m sure my mish-mash of European ancestors were also butter lovers, but Mom and Dad were partial to green vegetables seasoned with vinegar or soy sauce. I felt almost giddy when I decided, at the last minute, to make a real butter sauce for the veggies.
I had some good organic broccoli, chanterelles, and cremini mushrooms on hand and decided to feature them as a course rather than as side dishes. I blasted my cast iron skillet over high heat and gave each carefully trimmed piece a good, dark sear. I arranged the perfectly cooked vegetables on plates and drizzled them with this nutty, shallot-rich sauce. This spontaneous dish turned out to be my favorite dish of the night.
Shallot and Cream Sherry Beurre Blanc
Shallots are usually used to infuse flavor at the start but are strained out before service. In this case, I intentionally made sure the shallots were cooked through and well flavored with the vinegar and wine and left the savory brown tidbits in the sauce to add flavor, visual interest, and texture. I wanted the sauce for my dish to have a rich and nutty flavor, but you can manipulate the brightness by using a different vinegar, more citrus, or a lighter/drier sherry.
Yield: ½ cup
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cream sherry
1 stick (4 oz/115 g) cold unsalted butter cut into cranberry-sized cubes
Kosher salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
Combine the shallot and vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer until the vinegar has almost completely evaporated. In most butter sauces the shallots are not meant to brown at all, but in this case, a little browning adds a nice flavor and color, so go ahead and take it further. Add the sherry and simmer until it has reduced by half. Gradually whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time, waiting until they are just melted before stirring in more. Do not overheat the butter or it will separate.
Season to taste with salt and lemon juice if desired. Serve warm. This sauce cannot be reheated once it solidifies and it will break if you pour it onto very hot ingredients or plates so please watch the temperature closely.
NOTE: Unlike the recipes published in Mastering Sauces, My Spontaneous Sauce Recipes are quickly jotted down and not meticulously tested. Please make adjustments as you see fit.