Skate with Sauce Vierge

Butter and Lemon

Once upon a time, there was a simple sauce called Sauce Vierge. It wasn’t difficult to prepare, just beat some butter until soft, then add some lemon juice, salt and pepper and continue beating until fluffy. Serve with asparagus, leeks or other boiled vegetables. It was not the most exciting sauce ever and we could easily have forgotten Sauce Vierge.

But then, lo and behold, things changed. Sauce Vierge became hot and happening, thanks to the Nouvelle Cuisine and chef Michel Guérard. He replaced the butter with extra virgin olive oil. A Sauce Was Born!

Nouvelle Cuisine ruled the world and in its slipstream Sauce Vierge became a star. A now warm sauce with additional ingredients such as garlic, tarragon, basil, parsley and chervil. Sauce Vierge became the ideal sauce to accompany fish. Preparing it was fairly straightforward: flavour the oil with garlic, then remove the garlic and add lemon juice and chopped herbs.

Coriander and Tomatoes

In 1976 Michel Guérard published a recipe of Sauce Vierge, including crushed coriander seeds and diced tomatoes. His suggestion is to serve it with sea bass, cooked over seaweed (bladder wrack?), and a purée of watercress.


Sauce Vierge was a star, but from a marketing perspective the name isn’t ideal. The term Antiboise became popular, especially outside of France. Antiboise is named after the city of Antibes in the south of France. The name is clever and so is skipping the word ‘sauce’. So you could call Michel Guérard’s dish Sea Bass with Antiboise and a purée of Watercress.

A Warm Dressing

Let’s go back to the original Sauce Vierge. A simple sauce that combined fluffy butter with lemon. So a modern version with olive oil is a great idea. We also like the idea of flavouring the oil with garlic and chopped herbs.
Depending on the food that comes with the Sauce Vierge you could add chopped tomatoes, crushed coriander seeds, black olives or capers. Don’t add too much: today’s Sauce Vierge is more like a warm dressing then a classic sauce.

Wine Pairing

Given the powerful flavours (capers, olives, herbs, skate) we suggest a fresh white wine with a lots of fruit and easy to drink. Our choice was a Verdejo produced by Mocen (Spain). The tasting notes are described in this video.

What You Need

  • Skate (or Sea Bass)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Excellent Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Black Olives
  • Capers
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Heat some olive oil and add the crushed garlic glove. Let it rest on low temperature until the oil is infused. Peel and seed the tomatoes. Chop in small cubes. Cut the olives lengthwise in 8. Cut the capers. Roughly cut all the herbs. Fry the skate in oil and/or butter until brown. Remove the garlic, add lemon juice and tomatoes; mix. Serve the skate on a plate, add the herbs, the olives, the capers and black pepper to the sauce, mix and serve the sauce on top of the fish.

Skate with Sauce Vierge © cadwu
Skate with Sauce Vierge © cadwu