What is Nantua Sauce?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Nantua sauce begins as a white, cream-based bechamel.
Nantua sauce begins as a white, cream-based bechamel.

A nantua sauce is a kind of sauce that comes from French cuisine that has crayfish as a primary ingredient. The sauce begins as a Béchamel sauce, which is a white sauce that is made from scalded milk and a roux that is made from butter and white flour. Another important ingredient in nantua sauce is crayfish butter.

In classical French cuisine there are two ways to make crayfish butter. One is to combine cooked, pureed crayfish with butter. The ingredients are combined in equal parts by blending them together. The mixture is then pressed through a sieve and served cold. This version is used to accompany cold dished and hors d'oeuvres.

Baked fish and vegetables with nantua sauce made with crayfish.
Baked fish and vegetables with nantua sauce made with crayfish.

The second recipe for crayfish butter begins with the same basic ingredients. However, once the blend of crayfish and butter have been combined, they are slowly melted and then strained through a cloth. As the mixture is strained, the resulting butter is collected in a bowl of ice water. This causes the butter to congeal so that it can be collected. After becoming firm enough to remove from the water, it should be patted dry.

It is this second version of crayfish butter that is used in nantua sauce and is also sometimes used in soups and stews. Although most of the actual bits of crayfish are strained out of the butter, leaving behind only the flavor of the crayfish, actual crayfish are often used along with the sauce. When nantua sauce is served on a dish it is commonly garnished with crayfish tails. The sauce is most commonly served as an accompaniment to seafood dishes, which might also include crayfish as an ingredient.

Nantua sauce often ranges in color from a light orange to vibrant red, depending on the exact recipe used by the cook. Like many sauces in French cooking, nantua sauce requires a great deal of time, care, and precision to make correctly. It is a sauce that may take quite a while to perfect. For those who want to use nantua sauce in their own kitchens but are wary of all of the steps that go into making the sauce, it is possible to find the sauce in bottled form. Although it is not nearly as common as other types of sauces such as alfredo, pesto, and marinara that can be found in most grocery stores, nantua sauce can be found in some specialty foods stores.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

cmsmith10

@carrotisland: Here is some interesting and useless information regarding “crayfish”.

Crayfish, more commonly known as crawfish, came from the Old High German word “krebiz” which means “edible crustacean”. From that word came the Old French word “crevice” and then on to English to say “crevise”. That was first recorded in a document written in 1311. In the Old French and Middle English, those words meant crayfish. People began pronouncing and spelling this word as if it were “fish”. History records that in about 1444. Because of the variation in Anglo-Norman pronunciation, two forms of the word have come to our Modern English language: crayfish and crawfish.

christym

@carrotisland: The crayfish is more commonly known as a crawfish or crawdad. There are more than 150 species in North America and 540 species worldwide.

CarrotIsland

I know this might sound a little crazy, but what exactly is crayfish? I have never heard of that.

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    • Nantua sauce begins as a white, cream-based bechamel.
      Nantua sauce begins as a white, cream-based bechamel.
    • Baked fish and vegetables with nantua sauce made with crayfish.
      Baked fish and vegetables with nantua sauce made with crayfish.