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Sep 18, 2010 09:55 AM

Need Help with Butter Sauce for Halibut -- VIPs Coming to Eat Tonight

Looking for more experienced hounds to help out with what I'm wanting to do here, and guide me in the right direction, please.

We're making halibut tonight for VIPs (6 people total) coming over tonight for a special meal. My wife and I have made halibut several times in the oven with light seasoning, just lemon, salt, drip of olive oil, and it always turns out fantastic. HOWEVER, the accompaniments we've made in the past for guests always fall flat. I try to make different sauces, once I made a red pepper sauce, but it just didn't jive.

Tonight I want to make a beurre monte (I've made a plain one before and thought it lovely) but I also want to use the homemade clear fish stock I've had frozen for several months (now thawing) and possibly some dry white wine and shallots. At least that's the flavor profile I'm going for in my head.

My questions: After I begin the beurre monte can I add a stock/wine reduction to it without it breaking? I've searched on the web, but can't seem to find the answer to this anywhere. Then, of course, I'd also like to add in finely minced shallot. I just don't know if the emulsion will break when I add in so much liquid.

Follow up question: if I'm headed in the wrong direction with this, what other sauce would you make, that would take me in a similar vein flavor/texture wise? I have all the usual staples, flour, cream, etc., but don't have much expereince making complex sauces, only beurre monte, frankly.

Any help is greatly appreciated -- I'm trying to make this a spectacular night food-wise.


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  1. I assume beurre monte is similar as beurre blanc. If you want to use fish stock, wine, shallot. I would reduce some fish stock; how much to start would depend on how strong is your stock. If it is mild, start with 1 cup and maybe 1/2 cup of wine with some minced shallots. Reduce the mixture until it is about 2 to 3 tablespoon. Some cooks strain and discard the shallot but I ever because I like the texture and look. You can do this in advance. When you are ready to serve, warm the mixture and proceed like you do when you made the plain version. If it is looks like it it is breaking, whisk in just a few drops of hot water. Season with salt, pepper, chopped herb, etc. Once you start whisking in the butter, you cannot add much more liquid such as stock or wine, otherwise, the sauce will cease to be an emulsion. You still want a butter sauce but with a taste of fish stock and the acidity of white wine. And as you probably know, this sauce does not hold well. if one doesn't mind the calorie, it is an excellent sauce for halibut.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      Excellent, PBSF, thank you very much for this great help. I plan on doing exactly what you have recommended here, but there is only one thing I don't understand: do I begin adding the cold pieces of butter DIRECTLY to the 2-3 Tbs. reduction you have described as if that were the 2 Tbs. of water I usually begin with? OR, do you mean that I should begin my beurre monte with plain hot water as I have before and then once I have it going, slowly add the 2-3 Tbs. reduction to the butter emulsion?

      1. re: Noice

        The hot reduction is in place of your hot water. You might need a few drops of hot water if the sauce becomes too thick.

        1. re: Noice

          You begin with the hot reduction and mount (monte) the butter into it. you would only add more hot liquid if your Burre Blanc has broken.
          A good trick for stabilizing it is to add heavy cream to your reduction and reduce again then proceed with the butter. Much less likely to break this way.

      2. A beurre monte is a way of keeping a butter sauce from breaking down up to 180 - 190 degrees F even though normally the butter would start breaking down at 160 degrees. It is done by simmering 1-4 tablespoons of water and then whisking in chunks of cold butter. Once all the butter is melted the beurre monte has to be maintained at 180-190 degrees or it will break.

        To make a beurre blanc sauce, use two thirds of a cup of wine and or lemon juice. Heat it with some chopped shallots until reduced to one quarter of a cup. Allow the mixture to cool somewhat and whisk in three quarters to one cup of butter, a chunk at a time. Salt and pepper to taste. You could also add tarragon or dill.

        I would think the beurre blanc is what you are looking for. You could have the wine, lemon juice and shallot mixture all reduced and warm and at the last second whisk the butter into it and serve.

        I think a beurre blanc would be easier to maintain.

        1. Also, think about adding spices to the sauce- I was specifically thinking about pimentone. Would add a wonderful smokey, deep spicy flavor (I love it in beurre blancs). Fresh tarragon is also a great flavor to add for halibut.

          Saute the shallots, deglaze with the wine and stock. Reduce to a tablespoon or so. Take it off the heat and mix in the butter.

          Cream can be a lifesaver.

          1. Are you sure you want to attempt something like this for the first time when cooking for "VIP's?"
            You could just do your usual roast, deglaze the pan with a little white wine, whisk in a couple of knowbs of butter and a handful of parsley. Simple, quick, and no risk of failure or stress. Delicious, too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pikawicca

              I agree. I don't know that going with an emulsion for the first time is a good idea with guests. I would use a compund butter for a sauce.

              Just grab a handfull of mixed herbs and stir them into some softened butter. Put a small pat of butter on each piece of fish right out of the oven and the butter will melt into a great sauce.

            2. A MILLION THANKS TO EVERYONE! The fish turned out fantastic and so very, very elegant. Time was short as evening drew nearer, so I did not have a chance to get online and respond to everyone's wonderful assistance.

              Here's what I ended up doing, FWIW. I took a couple of shortcuts, but it turned out great:

              I reduced about a quart of my clear fish stock with almost one cup of vinho verde for about an hour and a half. SInce my accompaniment for the fish was going to be fried yucca "sticks" and I needed to pre-cook that, I put my three chunks of yucca in the stock and wine for about 45 minutes. I did this because I thought it would save me from boiling the yucca in another pan, and perhaps the yucca would pick up some of the stock flavor before being deep fried (I made a completely different sauce for the yucca). I mention this part because the starch from the yucca may have helped emulsify the butter? I'm not sure, but it turned out great.

              Anyway, I was left with about two tablespoons of reduction and set it aside in a separate bowl until we were ready for that course. Later I put the cooled reduction back in my clean sauce pan with 1 Tbs of hot water, put my burner on low, and began to whisk in my chilled chunks of Lurpak butter. I did not stop whisking since I was already familiar with the frightening feeling of seeing the beurre break on you, and kept going strong. I had my minced shallots all ready in a bowl, but I had forgotten to cook them in the reduction, so I microwaved them for about 45 seconds on low (I thought they'd be too harsh going in to the beurre monte raw), and then dumped them in right before plating.

              I spooned the sauce over each piece of fish and topped with chives. It was excellent and everyone loved it. Thank you to all for your time and advice -- this board is really an astounding resource.

              BTW, yes, Hank, I think what I wanted and more or less did was a beurre blanc sauce, I just didn't know it at the time. And, Jameshig, I think the pimenton would have wonderful if I had had some, but will certainly incorporate this next time.


              1 Reply
              1. re: Noice

                I don't understand reducing a quart of stock, but whatever. You shouldn't need more than a cup or 2 in the future.

                I'm glad it worked though.