SAUCES AND BUTTERS FOR FISH AND SHELLFISH

A sauce provides an individual character to a steamed fish. Adding sauce to poached, fried or baked fish drastically changes its appearance and flavor and makes the dish more appealing. Place a piece of fried fish on a plate and it will remain just a piece of ordinary fried fish. Pour some sauce over it, add a sliced lemon, sprig of parsley and it becomes a dish. Although the idea of making sauce may seem intimidating to some, on the contrary, making sauces is fast and easy. There are no fixed rules, but the white fish agree best with delicate cream sauces and herb butters, whereas oily fish like mackerel or salmon can take stronger flavors. There are some flavors such as lemon juice or dill that can be used with white wine sauces, or creamy butters to serve with whole fish, fillets and steaks whether just cooked or smoked.

Sauce Making

Many sauces use one basic foundation sauce known as “drawn butter.” It also goes by the name of “roux”, which is basically thickening used for making soups, gravies and sauces. In making a sauce which contains egg yolks for thickening, the sauce must not boil after they are added or it will curdle. Take care to remember that eggs will not thicken in a mixture unless the boiling point is nearly reached. The sauce must be carefully watched and at the first sign of boiling draw it aside where it cannot boil, then add the egg yolks and keep it where the temperature will be just under the boiling point. Remember that after the egg yolks are added, the sauce must never be left where it may boil again. In adding butter to a sauce, drop it in a small piece at a time, stirring each time until blended before adding another piece. If too much butter is added to a sauce all at once it might cause it to separate from the sauce, so for that reason it should be added gradually. Do not prepare sauces until you are ready to use them, but when they must be kept hot, place the saucepan in boiling water, where the sauce may be kept under the boiling point.

  • Notes:
  • Commercially made fish sauce may be used as a base in creating many of your own sauces.
  • Tabasco pepper sauce or cayenne pepper can be added to any sauce to spice it up.
  • To soften butter take it out of refrigerator and leave for one hour at room temperature.

The technique of making roux is the first step towards making sauces, gravies or thickening soups.

Drawn Butter or Roux
3 Tbsp. butter (or oil)
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup boiling water
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Melt two tablespoons butter, stir in the flour and allow to bubble up and cook together. This roux is now ready for the addition of liquid, which may be water, milk, fish stock, chicken stock, wine, etc.
2. Add the boiling water (or other liquid) and beat until smooth. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, whisking until it is all worked in. Season with salt and pepper. This is a delightful sauce to serve with boiled fish, asparagus, or cauliflower and can be used for making other sauces.

In the following examples you can see how simple making a sauce can be:

Caper Sauce
Make Drawn Butter sauce and add a tablespoonful of capers to it.
Goes well with fish or boiled mutton.
Egg Sauce
Make Drawn Butter sauce and add two hard-boiled eggs, chopped fine. Great for fish or poultry.
Hollandaise Sauce
Make Drawn Butter sauce and stir in additional butter, egg yolks and lemon juice to make a thick, yellow, custard like sauce with slight acidity.
Mustard Sauce
Make Drawn Butter and add mustard.
Parsley Sauce
Make Drawn Butter and add finely minced parsley.
Anchovy Sauce
Make Drawn Butter and add a 2 oz can of anchovies.
A fish sauce will have a better flavor if the fish stock is added to the roux. Make note that you would not add fish stock to let’s say Hollandaise Sauce when serving it with chicken and broccoli, but it is fine to add fish stock when making Hollandaise Fish Sauce.

To make fish stock for sauces:

White fish trimmings, backbones of filleted fish, heads (gills removed), fins and tail pieces.
1 onion
1 celery
1 carrot
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of parsley
1 sprig of thyme
1. Place all ingredients in a pot and cover with cold water.
2. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour.
3. Filter through a fine strainer or a cheese cloth.

Note: fish stock freezes well.

Well Known Sauces

Aioli Sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch salt
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup oil (olive, vegetable or mixed)
1. Peel the garlic, put in a mortar and pestle with the salt and grind it into a paste.
2. In a mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice, and garlic mixture together until well combined.
3. Start adding the olive oil, drop by drop, whisking all the time. You can add it a bit faster as you go along, but the key to success is going slowly at the beginning.

Note: you can easily see that making Aioli is basically the same as making mayonnaise. So it should come as no surprise that the fastest way to make Aioli Sauce is to mix garlic paste with prepared mayonnaise. Aioli is a very popular sauce in France, Italy and in Spain.

Anchovy Sauce
3 Tbsp butter or oil
4 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk, or milk and fish stock, equal parts
One 2 oz. can anchovies
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the oil or butter, stir in the flour, stir and allow to cook together.
2. Add all liquid all at once and whisk well with cook’s whip until smooth.
3. Add anchovies and seasonings, mix until smooth.
Easy Anchovy Sauce
5 Tbsp anchovy paste or 4 anchovy fillets
1 cup mayonnaise or sour cream
Mix the anchovy paste with mayonnaise until smooth
Bechamel Sauce
This is a classic creamy white sauce which goes well with fish and vegetables.
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
½ tsp. black pepper corns
1/3 tsp. nutmeg or mace
1½ cup of milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup flower
3 Tbsp cream
1 bay leaf
1 strip of lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Chop onion, celery and carrot very finely. Add nutmeg, bay leaf, peppercorns, lemon zest and place all in a saucepan. Add milk and bring to a boil. Remove from stove, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and stir in the flour. Heat again and cook until the mixture thickens (1-2 minutes). This is known as making “roux."
3. Strain milk and vegetables through a fine strainer into a bowl.
4. Blend the milk gradually into the roux, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and stir until the mixture thickens. Simmer gently additional 3 minutes.
5. Remove the source pan from heat. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cream.

Note: when serving with fish half of the milk may be replaced with fish stock.

Caper Sauce
2 cups milk, or milk and fish stock, equal parts
3 Tbsp oil
4 Tbsp flour
½ cup capers
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1. Warm up the milk (don’t boil).
2. Heat the oil, stir in the flour and cook together, making roux.
3. Add the hot liquid, whisking until smooth.
4. Season with salt and pepper, adding capers and lemon juice.
Celery Cream Sauce
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
½ cup reduced celery water (saved after boiling celery)
1 Tbsp minced parsley
1 cup celery pulp (which has been boiled and rubbed through a sieve)
3 Tbsp oil
4 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the milk and celery water.
2. Heat the oil, stir in the flour and cook together, adding hot liquid and whisking until smooth.
3. Add the celery pulp, the cream, and the butter in small bits, stirring until all blended together.
4. Season with salt and pepper, adding the parsley just before serving.
Cheese Sauce for Tuna
2 cups grated cheese
1/3 cup milk
6 drops Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard
Melt cheese over hot water.
Add milk gradually, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth.
Add Tabasco and mustard; blend well.
Citrus Sauce
Zest from 1/2 orange
Juice from 1/2 orange
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp chopped ginger
1 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or tarragon
1 stick butter
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add all ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes.
Cocktail Sauce for Crabs
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tablespoons chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 drops Tabasco
Dash cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Cocktail Sauce for Fish
1/2 cup ketchup
6 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
3 drops tabasco sauce
Blend all ingredients and chill.
Cocktail Sauce for Flounder
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
6 drops Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp finely chopped celery
Cocktail Sauce for Halibut
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 drops Tabasco
3 Tablespoons chopped celery
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Cocktail Sauce for Lobster
1/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Cocktail Sauce with Orange Juice for Lobster
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 Tablespoons orange juice
Whip cream.
Blend mayonnaise and orange juice; fold into whipped cream.
Cocktail Sauce for Oysters
1 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 Tablespoon horseradish
1 Tablespoon chopped celery
1 Tablespoon chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Few drops Tabasco sauce
Blend all ingredients and chill.
Cocktail Sauce I for Scallops
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 Tablespoons chili sauce
2 Tablespoons chopped celery
1 Tablespoon chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash curry powder
Dash pepper
Combine all ingredients and chill
Cocktail Sauce II for Scallops
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoon grated cucumber
2 Tablespoons grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Cocktail Sauce I for Shrimp
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon grated onion
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
Combine all ingredients and chill
Cocktail Sauce II for Shrimp
3/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon horseradish
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and chill.
Cucumber Sauce
1½ cups fish broth
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 cucumber, grated
1. Heat the stock, add the grated cucumber and simmer together.
2. Heat the oil, sift in the flour, stir and cook together, adding the hot liquid and whisking until smooth.
3. Strain, put on the fire again, add the cream and the butter in small pieces. Season.
Curry Sauce
1 cup milk
1 cup fish stock
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons onion juice
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the milk and fish stock.
2. Heat the oil, add the flour and the curry powder, stir and cook together, adding the hot liquid, whisking it smooth.
3. Add the seasonings.
Dill Sauce
Cucumber, peeled, grated and drained for 1 hour
8 oz (225 g) sour cream
8 oz (225 g) mayonnaise
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
5 oz (150 g) fresh dill, finely chopped
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill.
Egg Sauce
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoon flour
Salt, paprika
2 hard-boiled eggs, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1. Scald the milk (don’t boil).
2. Heat the oil, stir in the flour, cook together, add the hot milk all at once and whisk until very smooth.
3. Season and add the minced egg.
Hollandaise Sauce
½ cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 pint boiling water
3 egg yolks
Lemon juice to taste
1. Melt half the butter, sift in the flour, stir and cook together, adding a pint of boiling water all at once and whisking until very smooth.
2. Begin adding the butter, a small piece at a time, whisking each piece in before adding another, until all the butter is incorporated.
3. Draw aside from the fire and add the beaten egg yolks, just under the boiling point, whisking the sauce as it thickens. Do not place it where it can boil again or the sauce will curdle.
Add lemon juice to taste.

Note: this sauce should be a thick, yellow sauce like a custard, with slight acidity, yet not sour. There are many other methods for making this sauce, but this is the most simple one.

Horseradish Sauce
1 cup milk
½ cup strong fish stock
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated horseradish
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and paprika
1. Heat the milk and fish stock.
2. Heat the oil and stir in the flour and cook together, adding the hot liquid all at once and whisking it until smooth.
3. Add horseradish and seasonings.
Horseradish Sauce, Cold
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grated horseradish
1 cup whipped cream
Salt and pepper
Mix the ingredients in the order given and set on ice until ready to serve.
Mayonnaise Sauce
Mayonnaise may be considered a type of a sauce. It is also a foundation base for creating more sauces, for example Tartar Sauce or Aioli Sauce. Mustard, horseradish, curry powder, tomato ketchup, anchovy paste can be added to mayonnaise to create new sauces.
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp curry powder
Blend all ingredients together.
Mushroom Sauce
1 cup peeled fresh mushrooms, cut up in pieces
1½ cups milk
½ cup cream
1 egg-white, beaten stiff
Lemon juice to taste
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
1. Melt the butter and cook the mushrooms in it.
2. Heat the milk.
3. Heat the oil, add the flour, stir and cook together, add the hot milk, whisking until smooth.
4. Add the cream and mushrooms, then season.
5. Beat the egg separately, combine with other ingredients and when about to serve the sauce add the egg, making a foamy sauce which must not be boiled or it will curdle.
Mustard Sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 pint fish stock
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons flour
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup cream
1. Heat the fish stock.
2. Heat the oil, stir in the flour and cook together, adding the hot stock all at once and whisking until smooth.
3. Add the cream, then draw aside and add the egg yolks, under the boiling point, whisking them in as they thicken, but not allowing it to approach the boiling point again.
4. Make a paste of mustard and vinegar and add them to sauce. Season and serve.
Orange Sauce
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1-1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 whole cloves
Mix sugar and starch in a skillet. Add orange juice, vinegar, ginger. cloves, cinnamon and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Oyster Sauce
1 small can of oysters
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1. Open can of oysters and drain off the juice.
2. Heat the milk and oyster juice.
3. Heat the oil, sift in the flour, stir and cook together, add the hot liquid all at once, whisking until smooth.
4. Add the cream and the oysters, season to taste.
Parsley Cream Sauce
1½ cups milk
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
½ lemon juice
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the milk.
2. Heat the oil, stir in flour and cook together, add milk, whisking until smooth. Add the cream, butter and seasonings.
3. When ready to serve, add the minced parsley.
Red Devil Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp chopped horseradish
2 Tbsp Worcestersire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp brandy or rum
Combine all ingredients. Good sauce for dark fleshed fish.
Shrimp Sauce
1/2 pound cooked shrimp
2 Tablespoons butter or other fat, melted
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 hard cooked eggs, chopped
Cut shrimp into small pieces; brown in butter 3-5 minutes. Blend in flour and salt; add milk gradually and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add egg; heat. Serve over cooked fish.
Supreme Sauce
1 pint thick white sauce
1 pint chicken broth
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1. Simmer the white sauce and chicken broth until reduced by half, be cautious in order to prevent its scorching as it thickens.
2. Add the cream and the butter, whisking it in well, then season.

Note: chopped mushrooms may be added.

Tartar Sauce
1 cup oil
1 egg yolk
Juice ½ lemon
Salt and paprika
1 tablespoon finely minced dill pickle
1 tablespoon onion, finely minced
1 tablespoon parsley, finely minced
1 tablespoon minced capers
1. Put the egg yolk in bowl and begin to drop the oil, a drop at a time, whisking it in well, until the mixture begins to thicken; then add a little lemon juice and return to the oil again, which may be put in more rapidly, a teaspoon at a time, well beaten in until the amount is all used up.
2. Leave the sauce thick and add two tablespoons boiling water to finish the sauce and prevent it from oiling.
3. When cold add the chopped ingredients and cool. Refrigerate.
4. It may be freshened up for use again by adding half a spoon of lemon juice.

Note: making Tartar Sauce is similar to making the mayonnaise and the fastest way to make Tartar Sauce is to add 1 dozen of finely chopped little pickles (gherkins or cornichons) to 1 cup of prepared mayonnaise. You may add one teaspoon of prepared horseradish if available.

Thick White Sauce
3 Tbsp butter or oil
4 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk, hot
¼ tsp salt
1. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, cook together.
2. Add the milk all at once and whisk until smooth.

Note: to make medium white sauce use 2 Tbsp butter (oil), 2 Tbsp flour and 1 cup milk. This sauce may be used with boiled lobster, sweetbreads, chicken cutlets, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, and other similar dishes.

Tomato Cream Sauce
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
Salt, pepper and a little sugar
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons flour
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1. Heat the tomato puree.
2. Heat the cup of milk and cream.
3. Heat the oil, cook the garlic in it, stir in the flour, cook together, adding the hot milk and whisking until smooth.
4. Add the hot tomato and seasonings. This recipe may be doubled, and what is left, with the addition of fish stock or milk, will make an excellent soup for the following day.
Tomato Curry Sauce
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup fish stock
1 tablespoon onion juice
Salt, pepper and a little sugar
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons curry powder
1. Simmer the tomato puree and fish stock together.
2. Heat the oil, cook the garlic in it, add the flour and curry powder, stir and cook together; add this to the boiling tomato, whisking as it thickens, then season.

Note: you can make your own tomato puree, but it will be much faster to use canned tomato sauce.

To make tomato puree:
½ gallon fresh sliced tomato or 2 large cans
2 large onions, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery
2 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
1. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer gently for 1-2 hours.
2. Cool and strain it. Refrigerate.
3. This is now ready to use in all kinds of sauces calling for tomato.
Velote Sauce
½ cup white fish stock
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
½ cup cream
1. Melt the butter, add the flour, stir and cook together.
2. Add fish stock and slowly cook together for 10 minutes.
3. Warm up the cream and blend all together.

Note: Velote sauce is the foundation sauce for many other fish sauces.

COLD BUTTER SAUCES

Cold butter sauces are much easier to prepare than sauces. They can be prepared beforehand and kept in a refrigerator, unlike some sauces, for example Hollandaise, that does not freeze well. Then, at serving time, put a teaspoon of butter or as much as you desire on a hot fish. If the fish is cold, you can melt down the butter and poured it over the fish. When making a butter sauce, the first step is to cream the butter. This is a common procedure in baking. The difference is that we don’t add sugar to butter when making fish sauces.

To cream butter: leave the cold butter sticks for one hour at room temperature. Put the butter in a bowl and beat it with a mixer or whisk manually.

Anchovy Butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp anchovy paste
3 Tbsp butter, melted
Dash paprika
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
Cream the butter, adding the lemon juice a little at a time and the parsley.
Curry Butter
¼ cup butter
½ tsp (or to flavor) curry powder
Mix together and refrigerate.
Dill Butter
½ cup butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped dill
Cream the butter, adding the lemon juice a little at a time and the dill. Refrigerate.
Garlic Butter
½ cup butter
2 Tbsp very finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cream the butter, adding the lemon juice a little at a time and the garlic. Refrigerate.
Ginger Butter
½ cup butter
2 Tbsp very finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
Cream the butter, adding the lemon juice a little at a time and the garlic and ginger. Refrigerate.
Horseradish Butter
½ cup butter
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
Cream the butter, adding horseradish. Refrigerate.
Lemon Butter
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
Cream the butter, working in the lemon juice. Refrigerate.
Parsley Butter
½ cup butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Cream the butter, adding the lemon juice a little at a time and the parsley. Refrigerate.
Wasabi Butter
½ cup butter
1 tsp Wasabi (Wasabi is a green Japanese horseradish).
Cream the butter, adding Wasabi. Refrigerate.

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