Poached Salmon with Beurre Blanc

James Beard

Author and Educator

Beurre blanc, a rich, butter-based sauce from France's Loire Valley, pairs excellently with fish, especially salmon. As the legend goes, this sauce was stumbled upon by accident, when a chef, rushed for time while making a béarnaise sauce, forgot to add the tarragon and egg yolks and…Voilà beurre blanc!


  • 3-pound piece filleted salmon
Court Bouillon:
  • 2 pounds fish bones and heads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, stuck with cloves
  • 1 to 2 stalks celery
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 2 cups white wine or dry vermouth
Beurre Blanc:
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots or onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 sticks chilled butter, cut into 24 pieces


Combine all the ingredients for the court bouillon, except for the wine, and add enough water to cover fish bones and heads (about 4 quarts). Bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt, and correct the seasoning. Add the wine, and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Wrap salmon in cheesecloth, leaving long ends to use as handles, and lower into the court bouillon. Poach at a feeble bubble 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Test fish with a fork or toothpick until it flakes easily. Be careful not to overcook. Remove salmon to a hot serving dish or gratin dish, and keep warm.

To make the beurre blance, boil the wine, vinegar and onions together in a stainless steel saucepan until they are reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat, and, with a wire whisk, beat in two pieces of butter. When this begins to cream, beat in another piece. Continue in this manner, holding the pan over low heat or warm water, until all the butter is added. The resulting sauce will be creamy and light amber in color. Do not let it get too hot, or it will separate.

Serve fish drizzled with sauce.


6 servings