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Sauce - Mysterious Ingredient

A local restaurant of mine serves a chicken with lemon sauce that I love. I've asked what is in the sauce and they said butter, lemon & white wine. They claimed there is no flour or other thickeners, yet the sauce is opaque. Wouldn't a mostly butter sauce be a transparent and oily sauce similar to melting butter for lobster or popcorn? I can't imagine that the addition of lemon and white wine would give it an opaque and thick consistency.

Do you really think the chef isn't using flour or some other thickener? If so, would it have something to do with the technique or type of butter that they are using?

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  1. What you are eating is Buerre Blanc. It's a classic sauce where the butter is cut into pieces and beaten into the warm wine/lemon juice. Other acids can be used like a fruit vinegar to make a slightly different sauce.
    Very nice with poached salmon.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Hecetamom

      do you try to render the butter like a ghee?

      1. re: hill food

        I think the whole point in a beurre blanc is that the butter shouldn't get rendered or clarified. You put it in nice and cold and keep whisking or swirling to keep the butter from separating into fats and solids and from browning. That's what makes for a creamy-looking sauce. It is a kind of emulsification, as westsidegal says.

        1. re: hill food

          You reduce a cup or so of wine to a few tsp and then whisk in little chunks of butter using a low flame. Quite a bit of butter can be emulsified by this method.

          Elegant sauce. Pretty easy to make.

        1. This is my favorite sauce for seafood. The previous posters nailed it. Whisking is involved, but there's no other binding ingredient. Shallots and other flavorings might be used, or not, but your local restaurant isn't keeping secrets.

          1. Just to add to the other posters' discussion of Buerre Blanc, the key to a successful Buerre Blanc is temperature - if the butter gets too hot while whisking it in to the vinegar/wine/lemon juice, it will become that transparent, separated and oily sauce you mentioned. Small-dice-cut butter is often whisked into the hot base with the pan just off the heat.

            1. Butter is an emulsion where the fat is the continuous phase in which water droplets are embedded. In a beurre (not buerre) blanc, the emulsion is reversed -- with water becoming the continuous phase in which fat droplets are embedded. The way the emulsion is reversed is to start with an aqueous continuous phase (the lemon, vinegar and/or wine reduction) and then to whisk in the butter. As the fat is released into the aqueous phase, it's surrounded by the water and forms fat droplets (which are stabilized by the other components of the butter). As others have pointed out, the beurre blanc will separate if it gets too hot (> 135 degrees F according to McGee, "On Food and Cooking", p. 632).

              1 Reply
              1. re: drongo

                Thanks for that clear explanation.
                I've C&Ped it into my 'cooking essetials' folder.

              2. Thank you everyone!! I'm thrilled there's an explanation for it and look forward to giving it a try this weekend!