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.
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.