Mother Earth Living

Cooking with Vanilla: Orange Butter Sauce with Vanilla and Orange Balsam Thyme

By Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay
December/January 1995


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Makes about 2 cups (8 to 10 servings)

Based on the classic hollandaise, this delicate sauce is perfect with steamed asparagus, broccoli, grilled or sautéed fish fillets, or chicken breasts.

• 1 cup butter
• 1/4 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
• 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• 2/3 cup dry white wine
• 2 tablespoons fresh orange balsam or lemon thyme leaves and tender stems
• 1 tablespoon orange zest (colored portion only), removed with a vegetable peeler and chopped
• 6 egg yolks, beaten
• 5 tablespoons fresh orange juice
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onion and garlic just until soft. Add the wine and reduce by half over low heat. Add the thyme and orange zest, stirring to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer the mixture to the container of an electric blender and blend until smooth.

2. Whisk part of the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Pour the remaining blended mixture back into the saucepan and whisk in the warmed egg yolks. Over very low heat (or over simmering water), stir constantly until thickened. Add the orange and lemon juice, coriander, vanilla, salt, and pepper. Adjust the flavor with additional lemon juice, salt, and/or pepper. Keep the mixture warm over simmering water until ready to use.

Note: The sauce may be prepared several days ahead of serving; refrigerate it promptly to preserve freshness. Reheat over simmering water. If the sauce clumps or looks grainy, add a tablespoon or two of hot water and blend the mixture briefly to smooth it out. Leftover sauce should be refrigerated and used within one week.


Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay are a well-known pair of longtime chefs and herb gardeners who make their home in the tiny town of Round Top in central Texas.

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