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Buerre Noisette (with some pasta and stuff)

June 14, 2007

Buerre Noisette

Last night I again found myself in the position of trying to throw together dinner without going to the market. I wanted to try something new, but had to do it using only the ingredients already living in my refrigerator. I wanted to experiment with a new sauce, but having discovered earlier that all of the various dairy products and stocks had gone bad, my options were limited. Not only that but my pasta, chicken and prosciuotto tortellini, was pretty dang flavorful, so I wanted a sauce that wouldn’t overwhelm it. What to do, what to do?

The Joy of Cooking to the rescue! After perusing pages upon pages of sauce recipes and basics, I finally discovered one with only two ingredients. Two ingredients I actually had. A buerre noisette. I only say it the French way because I’m pretentious like that. Otherwise known as a brown butter sauce, it’s pretty much exactly that. You cook butter very slowly over low heat until it’s just about to burn, then add a tiny, teeny bit of an acid (lemon juice or white wine vinegar) and you have about the simplest sauce there is.

It sounded like an excellent complement to the tortellini, with some caramelized shallots and sauteed summer squash. And it was. (And no, I did not make the tortellini. I think it’s Butoni or something like that, but it is kick ass delicious and I love it.) This was a completely simple dinner that felt really, really decadent.

Buerre Noisette (Brown Butter)

  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
  • a pinch of salt and pepper

The trick to this one is patience, which I, to be fair, don’t have a whole lot of. I tend to get worried that something is effed up if it doesn’t come together quickly, and I stayed true to form this time around, too. After a few minutes I found myself wondering if something was wrong with my butter. Or my skillet. Or me. But nothing was.


The other trick to this is keeping a close, close eye on the butter. And I mean close. Butter goes from slightly brown and nutty to burnt in .05 seconds. You want to add the lemon juice (just a tiny squeeze) the second it hits the slightly brown phase, and then remove it from the heat almost immediately, once it stops sizzling a bit.

The third trick to this is moving the skillet around constantly. Don’t use too large a skillet, a little frying pan should be fine, but shake it and swirl the butter around the whole time, so that it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn when you’re not paying attention. I wanted to take pictures of all the butter’s stages, but it’s really hard to swirl a skillet around and take pictures at the same time. Maybe next time I’ll set up my tripod.

Last trick? Add it to the pasta as soon as it’s finished, and serve it right away. Timing is everything here, folks.


As for what I added to the brown butter, besides the delighful and very favorite tortellini, which I’ve only seen at the grocery market twice and which I pine for when I can’t find it, it was really very simple. I just cooked up a large, minced shallot over medium-low heat with some olive oil. When it was just barely starting to darken at the edges, I added some chopped up garlic, and about 30 seconds later I added sliced summer squash, a small pinch of tarragon, and some salt and pepper. I sauteed it for about three or four minutes, then put a lid on it to steam the squash. I stirred it every few minutes, but generally kept the lid on a cooked over relatively low heat until the pasta and sauce were done. The shallots were all brown and caramelized, and the squash were soft and buttery…and they lost their insides. Oops.

Once the sauce and pasta and squashes were done, I just mixed everything together. Voila. Wednesday night decadence.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2007 5:03 pm

    What? Chicken and prosciutto tortellini? *faint*

    I’m going to have to keep an eye out for that. Like I don’t spend enough time at the grocery store.

  2. June 16, 2007 7:49 am

    Wow, that sounds really, really good! I love their tortellini’s as well.. but I’ve never seen that flavor, will keep an eye out!

    Great choice of sauce and I love the addition of the shallot, garlic & squash – YUM!


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