Cod with Chicken Butter Sauce

Cod with Chicken Butter Sauce

Cod with a Chicken Butter sauce may sound bizarre but it’s quite a common, classically accepted take on a beurre blanc sauce. It’s a velvety, umami rich sauce which works extremely well with meaty white fish such as cod or monkfish (or monkfish cheeks). It’s also a sauce that doesn’t require a vast array of ingredients or time to prepare, the only part which will is the need for a good home made chicken stock. Note: this sauce has nothing to do with a butter chicken curry.

The beauty of this style of sauce is that it’s extremely customisable and you can switch ingredients around according to the garnish and the other ingredients that you’re using.

Using white, meaty fish for this recipe means that you can ramp up the flavour even more as it take a lot of spice and heat. I chose cod for this as it’s commonly available and when cooked right, I find it to be even better than steak. There are multiple different cooking methods available to get perfect, flaky pieces of cod including sous-vide, pan-roasting, baking or en papillote. I decided to steam my cod simply on the stove with a thermometer to ensure that the core of the cod doesn’t go over 55c.

Cod with chilli fennel chicken butter sauce
Cod with chilli, fennel chicken butter sauce and coriander oil

The fish was finished with the chicken butter sauce, dill oil and a spring onion and coriander salad.

What is chicken butter sauce?

Chicken butter sauce is a butter emulsion sauce with chicken bones, aromatics and brown chicken stock used for the base. The butter emulsion element of the sauce is effectively a classic beurre blanc sauce – a vinegar reduction (in this case reduced white wine and vinegar) thickened with cold butter until the mixture has emulsified. The chicken base is achieved by pan-roasting chicken off cuts with aromatics and deglazing with chicken stock.

Why does it work?

There are two reasons why a chicken butter sauce works very well with fish – one is technical and the second is flavour wise:

  1. A classic beurre blanc sauce is not a stable sauce – overheating the sauce can lead it splitting and becoming a greasy mess. By using good home made chicken stock, the high levels of gelatin helps stabilise the sauce and stops it from splitting.
  2. Secondly chicken is relatively light in flavour compared to a cream based sauce which is commonly used with fish. The techniques also mean you can develop richer flavour and add other flavour components (in this case I added fry chilli flakes and fennel seeds).

How do you make a chicken butter sauce for fish?

Making this chicken butter sauce recipe is relatively easy but may require a few ingredients that you’ll need to buy that aren’t in your store cupboard. The recipe also incorporates some classical sauce making techniques that will really help you make better sauces. The general formula to creating this sauce is as follows:

  1. Frying chicken wings with shallots, garlic and herbs in a pan
  2. De-greasing the pan (optional) by draining the rendered fat through a sieve
  3. Deglazing (removing the flavourful, brown bits on the bottom of the pan and incorporating them into the sauce) the pan with white wine and reducing.
  4. Adding good quality brown chicken stock and reducing.
  5. Adding cold butter to thicken the final sauce.
  6. Finally, passing the sauce through a sieve to remove chicken and aromatics.

Ingredients for a chicken butter sauce

The base chicken butter sauce for fish doesn’t require a vast amount of ingredients but generally the more you add, the better the flavour will be. For example, chicken wings can be easily removed from a chicken that you want to roast and really help ramping up flavour for this sauce

  • Chicken wings – highly gelatinous and flavourful – wings really help to add body to the sauce and browning the skin adds even more flavour.
  • Garlic and Shallots – these bring a savoury element and sweetness once fried
  • Fresh thyme (or herbs of your choosing i.e parsley, tarragon, coriander etc)
  • Home-made brown chicken stock – the main element of the sauce.
  • Dry white wine – adds acidity and lightens up the sauce.
  • Non-salted butter – the butter element to the sauce! Adding butter to the sauce at the end really thickens up the sauce and makes it really luxurious.

Cod with Chilli, Fennel Chicken Butter Sauce Recipe

Cod with chilli fennel chicken butter sauce


For the chicken butter sauce base:

  • 2 Chicken wings (mid point to wing tip) cut up into chunks or halved
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of thyme (or herbs of your choosing i.e parsley, tarragon, coriander etc)
  • 1 tsp of chopped red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp of tomato paste
  • 250ml (1 cup) of home-made brown chicken stock
  • 100ml of dry white wine
  • 100g of non-salted butter

For the cod and garnish

  • 2 Cod loins (150g each)
  • 2 Spring onions
  • Handful of dill
  • Baby coriander


For the sauce

  1. Add a bit of cooking oil to a frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the chicken wings. Fry until they are browned all over – be careful as they will spit as they cook.
  2. Optional: remove the rendered chicken fat through a sieve (be careful not to lose any ingredients that you added).
  3. Once the chicken wings are browned, add shallots, garlic, herbs, tomato paste chilli & fennel flakes. Fry for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce until only a syrupy amount is left.
  5. Add chicken stock and reduce until the sauce has thickened (it should be close to coating the back of a spoon).
  6. Add butter in, in cubes and whisk to emulsify.
  7. Strain sauce through a sieve and reserve.

For the cod

  1. Place seasoned cod loins in a steamer and steam until the centre of the fish has reached 55c internal temperature (use an electronic instant read thermometer. This should take around 5-7 minutes depending on size.
  2. Plate cod on the sauce with dill oil and spring onion & coriander salad on top. Serve immediately.
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