Beurre manié is a French cooking term meaning “kneaded butter.” It is a thickening agent that uses the same ingredients as a roux, flour and butter, but the ingredients are not cooked together from the beginning. Instead, equal amounts of butter and flours are rubbed or kneaded together to make a paste. This paste can be added at the last minute to sauces or soups to quickly thicken them.
A slurry is used for similar purpose, and it something that most home cooks are familiar with. A slurry is made by adding one part cornstarch to one part water and mixing them together. So, for instance, one tablespoon of cornstarch is mixed with one tablespoon of water to make a white, milky looking fluid. This can be added to anything you wish to thicken. However, it adds no flavor and the texture, when used for soups or stews it can create a sort of gelatin-like texture that may be off-putting.
Beurre manié, on the other hand, actually adds flavor and richness, and does not create this texture, although the sauce may be a bit pasty instead. They are good for thickening pan gravies, quick sauces (called à la minute sauces), soups, and meat and fish stews. It can also be used to thicken any liquid which you want to turn into a sauce, and which would benefit from the addition of butter. Basically, use it for any kind of sauce that does not require a lot of cooking time, such as a sauce made from the drippings of roasted chicken.
To make beurre manié, simply knead together equal parts softened butter and white flour with the back of a spoon. Add this to any liquid sauce that you wish to thicken, at the last minute before serving, whisking until smooth and thick. The more you add, the thicker the sauce will be so the best way is to add a little bit at a time, whisk, and wait a few minutes for the sauce to thicken, then add more if needed. Since the flour is not cooked, make sure to allow the sauce to boil for a few minutes, as the taste of raw flour will ruin the dish. Do not boil longer than 10 minutes, though, as the sauce might break. A sauce made with beurre manie is not as stable as a sauce made with roux. It is not necessary to cook the sauce longer than this unless you added a large amount of beurre manié all at once. Usually, a few minutes should suffice.
For more on making lots of great sauces, I’d recommend Modern Sauces: More than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day by Martha Holmberg (photos by Ellen Silverman].
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