Beurre Nantais is a variation of beurre blanc, which has been a topic of discussion around these parts lately. The principal change is the addition of a little cream, added during the reduction phase. Beurre blancs can be a little tricky as to whether or not an emulsion will actually form; and, assuming it does, it has a tendency to break evenly. The cream makes not only makes emulsification (assuming decent technique) nearly 100%, the resulting Nantais is a lot sturdier and easier to hold than a blanc.
This particular version includes lemon and capers. It's good with just about any fish; and with sauteed or lightly breaded and sauteed chicken or veal.
Also, there's been some discussion about writing recipes. In this case, other than the addition of lemon and capers, the emphasis is on technique. Ingredients and flavor profile are right down the middle. You're encouraged to make whatever changes your palate, pantry and circumstances allow.
BEURRE NANTAIS with Lemon and Capers
(Yield: About 2 cups)
(Yield: About 2 cups)
Ingredients:8 or 9 shallots
1-1/2 cups dry, white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, divided
1 lemon, divided
3 tbs capers (capers in brine, drained)
Generous handful of curly or flat leaf parsley
Finely mince the shallots. Cut the lemon in halves. Mince the parsley. If you are using capers packed in salt, set them in a little acidulated water to rehydrate.
Pour the wine into a sauce pan, add the shallots, and reduce the wine over medium heat until volume is about 1/2 cup. Do not use high heat or the shallots will not properly infuse, and the wine may become bitter.
Add the cream and reduce again until volume is again about 1/2 cup.
Meanwhile, during the reduction processes melt two sticks of butter. Hold the melted butter warm. Cut the remaining stick of butter into nine pieces and set them aside – preferably, but not necessarily, in the refrigerator.
After the reduction is finished, and the butter melted, reduce the heat under the reduction to low. Then whisk the melted butter into the reduction. You may do this either a little at a time or in a slow steady stream. Either way, it’s important to whisk continuously while incorporating the melted butter.
When all the melted butter is incorporated, incorporate the unmelted butter in the following way. Add three pieces to the sauce, and whisk them until they are a little more than half melted. Add the next three, and repeat the process. Add the final three, and whisk until fully incorporated. This method of incorporating butter is called "mounting." It is an extremely useful technique both for building structure in a butter based sauce and for creating a "butter finish" in sauces based on other liquids.
At some point during the butter incorporation process, the sauce will show signs of structure ("body"). This will most likely happen during the time you’re adding the second group of three pieces, but may occur earlier.
Taste the sauce and adjust for salt and pepper.
Hold the Nantais until just before service. Because the cream stabilizes the emulsion, the emulsion is not only more certain but may be held warm for quite a while without breaking. The best way to do so is in a thermos. Next best is in a double boiler over warm water.
Immediately before service, drain the capers and add them to the sauce. Add the juice of half a lemon and taste. Add more lemon juice if you like.
You may use the sauce as a puddle or nappe. After the sauce is poured and the fish, meat or vegetable plated (or vice versa), garnish generously with parsley.
If you like you can also pass the sauce separately.
Note: A white Muscadet is ideal and regionally appropriate. Just as good are Pinot Grigio, Pino Gris, or Frascati. You may use almost any dry white except for something which has a lot of “wood.” That is, stay away from Chardonnays.
PS. As always, the recipe is original is with me. You may copy or share it if you wish, on the condition that you attribute it to me, Boar D. Laze. I would consider it a kindness if you would also mention my eventually to be finished book, COOK FOOD GOOD: American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates.
PPS. Beurre Nantais has been around forever. Not just before Escoffier, but probably before Careme. So, when I say the recipe is original I mean it is an adaptation. I've altered the usual technique by including mounting. The lemon caper variation is hardly unusual, but you seldom see it written.