A delicious sauce that goes especially well on simply cooked fish
8 sticks (4 cups) unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
salt and white pepper to taste
very finely minced parsley or fresh tarragon (optional)
1. Cut the butter in small cubes and put in a bowl. Set the bowl in ice water. (The butter should be very cold; otherwise it might melt too quickly and the sauce might break.)
2. Place shallots in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Add the white wine and wine vinegar. Boil the liquid over high heat until it is reduced to a scant 1 tablespoon.
3. Just before serving, add the pieces of butter to the pan, 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition, until it has all been used. (The sauce should be fairly thick.) Add a little lemon juice to the sauce to taste. Season with salt and white pepper.
4. If you're a purist, you'll want to strain the shallots out of the sauce before serving. Some chefs prefer to leave the shallots in; if you're among them, you might also want to mix finely minced parsley or tarragon into the sauce. And some chefs like to bolster the sauce with a little créme fräche just before serving it.
This sauce had an incredible renaissance in french and American restaurants of the eighties. It's an old, classic concoction from france's Loire Valley, but it fell into disfavor during the Reign of flour-based french Sauces, which lasted through most of the twentieth century. Then, starting in the seventies, nouvelle cuisine chefs started calling for lighter food, and flour-based sauces went out of fashion. Ironically, no one should call a sauce that's practically pure butter light, but it turned up in one lightened kitchen after another. No matter what its degree of saturated fat, it's a delicious sauce that goes especially well on simply cooked fish. It's also lovely with vegetables. Makes enough to sauce 8 entrees